Sermon Passage: Philippians 1:27-30
Life in Philippi was very communal. When Christians stopped participating in pagan rituals and culture with their neighbors, their neighbors would ask them why they had stopped. In the midst of peer pressure and threats of persecution, the Philippian Christians stood firm (verse 27). It is worth the sacrifice to suffer for the sake of Christ. Paul says that along with the gift of belief is granted suffering (v. 29). This suffering convicts persecutors and emboldens the faithful (v. 28).
An implication of Paul's statement is that life with Christ is necessarily communal. Paul in verse 27 says that Christians are to stand firm side-by-side. Some people say, "Christianity is not a religion. It's a relationship." The problem with this statement is that it implies that you don't need the church to live a Christian life. What you really need is to labor side-by-side with others who help you grow and who you help grow. Christianity isn't individualistic. It takes place in your covenant community.
Christianity is also not like a time-card, where you clock in and clock out every Sunday, serving your time then forgetting about it. Christianity is a life. It is a life lived in a community as people stand firm together. Church isn't a therapy session either, where you attend with the main goal of finding advice, feeling better, and fixing problems in your life. Those things may happen, but you're there first and foremost to glorify God by imitating Christ with the help of others.
There are five things that will cause us to drift from faithfulness:
- Refusing to Stand (v. 27). It is tempting to refuse to stand when we have grown comfortable and secure in our situation and relationships. We're afraid that acting on our beliefs or making them known will jeopardize our good situation. Our goal, however, is not to be understood and accepted but to be faithful.
- Standing in different places (v. 27). Don't define yourself by political party, parenting style, diet, or other lifestyle choice. These alienate others for a reason other than Christ. What are you driven by? What motivates you? What is your reputation? When others say, "You're one of those," is "those" Christ or a cultural trend?
- Strive for different goals than your church community. We get frustrated when others don't take an interest in our agenda. What's your agenda? Are you grumpy that the world isn't behaving? Have one mind with the church by pursuing the common goal of glorifying God. The church is not frustrated. Frustration comes when our goals face obstacles and remain unmet.
- We strive in isolation. If you're lonely, it might be because you're neglecting the community, perhaps by having the wrong goals not shared by the covenant community. Your goal can't be overcoming loneliness or your own problems. Rather, your goal is to side-by-side help each other imitate Christ and bear fruit. You're not meant to bear fruit in isolation.
- Not striving. Do you feast on the word of God? Have you given up? Some have given up the fight. Their energy is spent. You think you're not striving only affects you, but complacency and despair is contagious. Not speaking or participating in Life Group affects everyone. If you remain silent, you won't benefit from others, and others won't benefit from God's work on your struggles.