16th Sunday after Pentecost – September 24, 2017
- First reading and Psalm
- Alternate First reading and Psalm
- Second reading
Philippians 1:21-30 | New Living Translation (NLT)
For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.
Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what he is doing through me.
Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.
We have finished our journey through Romans and now will take a short look at Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi. Philippians is a missionary support letter – from Paul to the church at Philippi. He wants to let the church know how things are going. Compared to the letter of Romans, this letter is short, but it is a powerful short letter.
Paul begins the letter with a salutation and then thanks to the church and a prayer. This is followed by Paul telling about some of his current circumstances. We often think that Philippians is a letter about joy – and that can certainly be said of it, but wait…there’s more…much more. Our passage today gets to the heart of the whole letter – living for Christ – living as a citizen of heaven.
Paul writes: “For to me, living means living for Christ…” That should be the aim for every one who calls themselves a Christian. He goes on to say that if he continues to live, he can do more fruitful work for Christ. We are getting near the end of Paul’s life here and he says I want to live for Christ, but dying is even better…Paul is torn. I’ve seen saints reach the end of their life and they talk about going home. Paul is torn – he wants to live for Christ, but he also longs to see Jesus face to face. He also knows that he still has work to be done, being fruitful for Christ…doing the work that Christ has called him to do.
He knows the churches under his care still need his teaching. The desire of his heart is to help the believers grow and experience joy in their faith. Paul says it is better for the sake of the believers here that he stays on this earth and help them live as citizens of heaven.
What does a citizen of heaven do? Paul tells us that they must conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. I think we can draw parallels in what it means to be a good citizen of a country and a good citizen of heaven. As a citizen of heaven, we want to promote it…we want to live lives that are worthy of it. We want people to know that Jesus came, Jesus died, Jesus rose again, and Jesus is coming again – after all that is the Good News. Not only do we let people know about the kingdom, but we fight for it – don’t be intimidated by our enemies. I think one of the things that I want to point out here is let’s identify the correct enemy. Other believers – other denominations are not our enemy. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but principalities and powers of another kingdom. Paul says, I know you are standing together – with one spirit – with one purpose. This is unity of the body of Christ. So many times we think unity is everyone thinking or doing the same thing, but it is unity in spirit – having the mind of Christ. It is unity in purpose – contending for the faith, sharing the Good News, doing the fruitful work of Christ that Paul is talking about here. As Paul says, and I’ve said to our church here at McCrae Brook, “We are in this struggle together.” So live for Christ, be fruitful in doing his work, be of one mind (the mind of Christ), be of one spirit and be of one purpose…That is how we are citizens of heaven and live for Christ.