Unity Comes from Developing an Eternal Perspective

Steve Viars June 14, 2008 Philippians 1:21-30

 

- I’d like to add to what has already been said this morning by wishing the dads here a Happy Father’s Day...

- one of the things I have always appreciated about this church is that it is characterized by having a good number of strong men...

- I didn’t say “perfect men”...but there are many guys here who truly want to get to a better place in their relationship with the Lord...

- and they want to take their faith in Christ seriously...

- and they want to develop habits of personal integrity and authenticity...

- and they want to be good husbands and they want to be good fathers...

- that’s why we have so many Point Man groups that meet around town...

- that’s why we have to work to have a venue large enough to hold Men of Faith at 6:00 am on Saturday mornings...

- that’s why we have a significant number of men who are qualified to serve as deacons and in other positions around the church...

- and as far as I can tell, the relationships between men and women in the church family are healthy...

- I think women like it when men are trying to be the real thing spiritually---it’s amazing how many other things just naturally fall into place when that is the case...

- so men, happy Father’s Day – we’re thankful and glad that you’re part of the family...

- now, to begin our time this morning in the Scripture...please tell me how you would complete this sentence...To me, to live is ________.

- now, some of you already know the verse I’m referring to --- I would ask you not to just immediately insert the word from the Bible that goes in that blank if you know it...

- think about it from the perspective of how you choose to live...

- what transpired last week...what really thrilled you....what really concerned you...

- what you worked toward...what you were disappointed by....what made you angry...what made you happy...

- when you can get your arms around that mentally, then you can begin honestly completing the sentence...To me, to live is....

- Now please think about this...how might different people even here this morning complete that sentence?...

- there are a lot of options, aren’t there?...

- for example...some, if they were honest would have to say...

- To me, to live is “getting my way”...

- If I win the argument, I’m happy...if not I’m depressed...

- I try to find all sorts of ways to manipulate in order to get other people to agree with me...everybody has to do things my way...

- or, To me, to live is keeping the peace...

- I have several people in my life who can’t get along with one another...

- so I’m scurrying around trying to figure out how to keep the lid from blowing off the boiling cauldron of our family, or our office, or our neighborhood...

- others if they were honest, would have to say –

- To me, to live is pursuing my secret sin...

- they wake up and begin planning the next time...

- what steps will they to take, what lies will they have to tell...and how can they increase the pleasure of the experience...

- what defines them is their sin...

- hopefully, the wheels of your mind are turning because the truth is...you could answer this question a myriad of ways...To me, to live is pleasure...To me, to live is the weekend...

- To me, to live is retirement...To me, to live is finding a mate....To me, to live is getting rid of my mate...To me, to live is boredom...To me, to live is sports...To me, to live is gossip...To me, to live is mediocrity...

- my question for you this morning is...based on an honest appraisal of the way you live...what truly goes in the blank?....

- now, how would you complete the second half of the equation?....And to die is ______?

- that’s ones harder, isn’t it...

- To die is...something I don’t want to talk about...To die is...the king of terrors....

- To die is...my greatest fear...To die is...the only solution to this hopeless mess I’ve made...

- for me, to live is ____, and to die is ______.

- well, if you know the book of Philippians, you know that the apostle Paul had a decidedly different set of answers to our question...this morning we’re going to think about how you and I can get on that same page...

- with that in mind, would you please open your Bible to Philippians chapter 1?...page 154 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you...

- this summer, we’re doing a verse by verse study through the book of Philippians entitled Seeking God’s Plan for Joyful Unity

- Paul was writing from prison in Rome to his dear friends at the church at Philippi...

- they had sent a financial gift along with one of their own church members named Epaphroditus to provide for his care...

- they were concerned about his well-being and also perhaps downhearted that his imprisonment had been a significant setback for the proclamation of the gospel...

- and so writes this book to thank them for their faithfulness and generosity...

- and to explain why he’s sending Epaphroditus back to them...

- and to adjust and change the way they have been thinking about his imprisonment and its effect on the proclamation of the good news of Christ...

- but also to address some budding problems between people in the church...

- they needed to be taught and reminded about God’s plan for Joyful Unity...

- this is a subset of our annual theme of Seeking God’s Plan which we’ve selected because we’re right in the middle of a strategic planning process as a church family where we’re trying to identify and then commit ourselves to a ministry plan for our next 5 years together...we thought this would be a good book to study along the way...

- so far we’re looked at 2 passages...1:1-11 - Unity Comes from Praying for One Another

- 1:12-20 – Unity Comes From Viewing Challenges through the Lens of Outreach

- this morning we’d like to continue to think about verses 12-20, and add the ideas from verses1:21-30 and learn thatUnity Comes from Developing an Eternal Perspective

- read Philippians 1:12-30

- with the time we have remaining, let’s divide these verses in this fashion:

I. The Statement of an Eternal Perspective

II. The Impact of an Eternal Perspective

III. The Challenge of an Eternal Perspective

I. The Statement of an Eternal Perspective – 1:21-26

- well, there’s no question how Paul would have completed our sentence in the introduction this morning...

- Philippians 1:21 - For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

- now, here’s one of those verses that I was talking about a couple of weeks ago...

- every person in our church ought to have this one memorized...

- this is one of the things we ought to love about Biblical Christianity...it is profound in its simplicity...

- this answers some of the most significant questions of life...why am I here , and where am I going?...

- Christianity offers compelling answers to those questions...

- and I would suggest to you this morning that to the degree to which you and could make that same statement, and have truly learned to live in a way that is consistent with it every day...to that same degree we will achieve both unity and effectiveness as a family of followers of Christ...

- so let’s drill into it...

A. It is intensely personal.

- you may have wondered something about the grammar of this verse...

- is the first “to” really necessary?...wouldn’t the verse read more smoothly if it simply said “For me to live is Christ...”...why is the “to” there...[and that’s the case in all the modern versions I checked]...

- there’s a reason for that...

- in the language in which this letter was originally written, Paul emphasized the words “to me” by placing them first in the sentence...

- if the translators took the word “to” out of that sentence just to make it flow better in English, they would have actually been removing a word from Scripture...which in this case involves a very important point...

- what we’re talking about this morning is a decision that every person has to make on their own...

- see, this is what guided Paul as he responded to being imprisoned...but he recognized and respected the fact that everybody else was going to have to decide the grid through which they were going to interpret these events...

- and please remember this – God doesn’t have grandchildren...

- every person has to decide --- what will you do with the message of the cross?

- will you admit your need of a Savior?...will you trust Him as your Lord?...

- it’s not enough to say – to my dad to live is Christ – that’s what he organized her life around...

- to my grand-mom...to live is Christ...

- you probably know that we have a standing arrangement with the funeral homes in town that if a person dies who did not have a pastor or a church home, we are happy to try to minister to the family at that time...

- those can become fascinating opportunities to just hear what people are thinking...

- I’ve had people say to me – you know, our grandma knew the Lord, she read her Bible, she was a good Christian woman...and the impression I’ve gotten from some folks is – and that’s what the entire family is placing their hope in...

- Grandma was so spiritual...her love for God will get the whole bunch of us to heaven...

- it’s like you get to the gates of heaven and say – “I’m with grandma...you know grandma, don’t you?...”

-  that’s not the way it works...and I would have to ask every person here...has there been a definite time in your life when you admitted your sin, your need of a Savior, and then you placed your faith/trust in Christ?...

B. It focuses the direction of your life.

- For to me, to live is Christ

 - what does that mean?...

- each day, I want to grow more in my love for my Savior....

- each moment, I want to be looking for opportunities to advance the plan of my Savior...

- I’ve organized my love, and I’ve organized my life around Christ...

- for those of you who have your own business...

- for to me to live is making as much money as possible?...

- for me to live is ripping someone else off if I can?...

- for me, to live is Christ...so my business ethics are more about honoring Christ than they are about lining my pockets...

- we’ve had people here over the years who have wanted me to place more of an emphasis on having a business directory of people in the church who have various businesses...and we actually have one of those around here somewhere because I can sympathize with the desire to work with believers when you have some sort of need...[I’ve had that conversation with several people recently who had some sort of medical need and commented on how nice it was to know their doctors or their nurses...]

- but some want that for all businesses and have fussed at me a bit for not making it more of an emphasis...

- this verse explains exactly why – for some people, for them to live is a little bit of Jesus and a lot about making money [which tells you something about the identity of their true God...]

- and they would view a congregation like this not as a place to grow and serve Christ but as a location for networking and growing their bottom line...

- for to me...to live is Christ...it focuses the direction of your life...

- we could tease this out in all sorts of directions...

- this is baseball season...many of your kids are playing baseball...

- what are you talking to your kids about as you’re driving to the park?...and what are thinking as you’re sitting in the stands?...

- is that game about magnifying Christ?...

- are you teaching your kids to play hard...sure...but also to look who the kid who isn’t doing so well [and will probably never do well] and encouraging him too, and being respectful to the ump, and being appreciative to the coach, and being good sports with the other team...

- Is it about winning, or is it about Christ?...

- many of you will be going on some sort of vacation this summer...what’s that going to be about?...what’s the focus going to be there?...

- well...me, me, me of course...

- that’s my down time...that’s my relaxation time...that’s when we do what I want to do, and go where I want to go, and eat where I want to eat, and spend what I want to spend...

- I hope you’re going alone...

- because if you pile 4-5 human beings in the same mini-van with everyone possessing the “its all about me” approach to vacation...you won’t make it Lebanon until you have a full scale brawl on your hands...

- friend, what would need to change about your outlook and your focus for you to be able to say with more integrity and honesty...For me, to live is Christ...

C. It soothes the thought of your death.

- and to die is gain.

- C.S. Lewis – Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in; aim at earth, and you’ll get neither.

- you might say, but how could Paul have what almost appears to be a cavalier attitude to what many consider to be the king of terrors?

- that answer is right in the middle of verse 23 – do you see it?

- v. 23 – having the desire to depart and be with Christ.

- the word depart in that verse was used in Bible times by soldiers who were taking down their tent and moving on, or by sailors when they were loosening a ship and setting sail...

- that’s the way Paul viewed death...

- and what made it attractive was that he would be...with Christ...

- C.S. Lewis also asked this...Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret?  There are better things ahead than any we leave we leave behind.

- do you agree with that analysis?...

- that’s called having an eternal perspective...

- and Paul says...I’m actually having a mental wrestling match...because I would prefer to go to heaven...I value Christ that much...but I also know that there is much to be done for Christ on earth...so it would appear that God is going to continue to let me serve in that way...but those are the only two choices...

- going to be with Christ there...

- staying and serving Christ here...

- an eternal perspective...and that puts everything else in its proper place...

- see, don’t think...for to me to live is getting a degree...

- no, instead think...for to me to live is Christ...and I want to grow in Him and serve Him as I’m trying to get my degree...

- so if you have some bumps along the road and you don’t get your degree as quickly as you want...you can still accomplish your primary goal anyway...

- I thought I was going to honor Christ by getting my PhD in 4 years...but now I’m going to honor Christ by responding properly to a very difficult major professor and getting my PhD in 5...either way...to me, to live...is Christ...

- now, let’s take this one step further...what is...

II. The Impact of an Eternal Perspective – 1:12-20

- please think now about the verses Pastor Aucoin began reviewing with us last week...

- because Paul thought of his imprisonment in this way, it affected a lot of people...

A. The “whole praetorian guard and to everyone else”.

- did you see that in verses 12 and 13...

- undoubtedly some in Rome had heard about Christianity but had received skewed reports...

- they are strange sect with secretive beliefs...

- well, Paul was right there in the palace...and guards talk...and as they learned more about Christ and the reason Paul was in chains...they developed more of a respect and appreciation for his humility, and his graciousness, and his love...

- you can bet he was unlike any other prisoner to whom they had ever been assigned...

- and the principle is – you can chain the servant but you can’t chain the mission...

- God’s Word was being proclaimed freely in places that otherwise would have been very difficult to penetrate...

- the Philippians needed to see...this wasn’t a bad turn of events...

- Philippians 1:12 - Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel,

- please think about this – why might God have allowed your car to break down [maybe the car guy needed to see a Christian handle bad news in a Christ-like fashion...why did God allow you to go to the hospital – cf. Jack Wrytzen – pray for that nurse, Harry, I’m not sure she knows Christ...]

B. The family of God.

- Paul tells the Philippians – you should also see the impact my imprisonment is having on other Christians...followers of Christ are speaking up like never before...

- and its interesting, isn’t it, that he says – now, some are doing it out of envy...and you can imagine some of the people in the various churches in Rome who had a level of prominence and then the apostle Paul comes to town and everybody is talking about him...

- and maybe some of this renewed vigor about serving Christ is because of imperfect motivations....but does Paul get all uptight about that?...

- of course not --- [read vv. 14-18]...

- a lack of this kind of eternal perspective is why there is so much sibling rivalry in the household of God...

- there is so much of this “we’re the only ones” thing that often the impact of Christ is diminished in communities around our country and around our world...

- and I’m not talking about linking up with people who have denied Christ and His Word...but there are plenty of people who agree with us on 90-95% of our doctrine...and we ought to do everything we can to partner together for the corporate cause of Christ....

[develop recent discussions with Kossuth about student housing at Purdue...]

- the point is – this eternal perspective had practical implications...it had an effect on the guards, it had an impact on the churches...it even had an impact on...

C. Paul himself.

- he said in verse 19 – I know this will turn out for my deliverance...

- not necessarily release from prison [cf. the end of verse 20]...

- but he knew that Christ was powerful to glorify Himself through Paul’s life and testimony in whatever occurred...

- see, that was Paul’s greatest concern – not, are my plans going to be dashed...but am I going to fair to accomplish the mission?...

- and now he’s seeing – I’ve been through enough battles and trials and watched God give me the grace and strength to serve Him no matter what...it even gives me confidence in uncertain times...

- so, where does that leave us?...the answer is...with this wonderful...

III. The Challenge of an Eternal Perspective.

A. Conduct yourself worthy of the gospel.

- C.S. Lewis – If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next.  It is because Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.

- what a great way to evaluate every thought, every word, every decision, every deed, every friendship, every transaction – is that worthy of the gospel?

B. Stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.

- This is why I have been encouraging everyone to read the book “Who Stole My Church?”

- develop upcoming ministry opportunities...

- VBS

- Community Picnic

- Summer Sports leagues and other opportunities at the community center

- TEAM Works

- MABC starting tomorrow [thank Rob and Brent]...

- continuing to participate in futures discussions and prayer...

C. Handle opposition with confidence and strength.

- mention the unusual mixture of unparalleled opportunities with a bit of push-back

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video