Counter-Cultural Christianity

Philippians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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There comes a point in everyone’s life where the rubber meets the road and what someone believes inside turns into what someone does on the outside. We know that warfare is an example of this. In the ancient world, especially the Roman world, children were told their entire lives that their nation/country was the best in the whole world and there were a bunch of savages around them that they needed to conquer in order to enlighten them. Because they were taught this and they believed it, whenever they grew up their actions reflected these beliefs. The same thing is true of people today regarding personal beliefs. If you believe that Star Wars is better than Star Trek then your actions will back that up.
For the apostle Paul, who by the way was in prison while writing this letter to the church in Philippi, he had this hope internally that he would be delivered from prison as he had been in the past. He expected to be delivered and he had this confidence in his salvation because he knew that Jesus was in control even though his circumstances were not exactly ideal!
Even though Paul had this confidence, though, he requests the prayers of the Philippian church in the process.
As we read this text and see that we are to live for Christ regardless of our circumstances, let’s go ahead and take a piece of application to our context today: God is sovereignly in control of all things right now. Because of the sovereignty of God, some question the need to pray. They say that God is completely in control and it is futile to pray because the virus will do whatever its going to do. Now, I’m not taking the Kenneth Copeland approach that says that Christians are immune to sickness, but I do believe in the power of prayer. Paul notes in our text that God answers prayer and works through prayer to accomplish His purposes! Church, we should pray for safety, wisdom, discernment, and health during these weeks and months ahead. We should pray for God’s will to be done, certainly. But we also lift our petitions up to Him and we ask for understanding in times of uncertainty.
In all things, just as Paul does, we have joy and hope because our confidence is not in flesh and blood but rather in the victory of Jesus Christ on the cross and the eternal hope we have through Christ. We rejoice in that victory and we live for Christ along the way.
Philippians 1:18–26 NASB95
18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. 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 your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.

Rejoice in Christ (18-21)

We concluded last week’s study in verse 18 as Paul notes that he is happy that some teachers are selfishly proclaiming the Gospel rather than preaching with pure motives. He is not rejoicing in their motive but he rejoices because the Gospel is being proclaimed to the lost and people are hearing about Jesus! Paul rejoices in this fact and he says at the end of verse 18 that he will rejoice - this is not a present joy that he has expressed regarding the current situation but rather this is a future joy. Regardless of the situation he finds himself in, regardless of being imprisoned, nothing can shake his confidence in Christ and nothing can drown out his joy! Paul notes that he will rejoice!
Friends, Christians have always held this mentality that regardless of what our circumstances look like, we will rejoice! In our day and age this idea is not as popular for many people because we want circumstances to look good, especially as Christians. It is easy to rejoice in the good times, friends. It is easy to rejoice whenever things are going well. It’s hard to rejoice in suffering. It’s hard to rejoice whenever there is disaster effecting us left and right! Whenever we rejoice in suffering, though, we show the world around us that our joy is not found in what this world has to offer or our earthly possessions, rather it is found in Christ! Everything can fall apart in our lives and we can be a little bit upset and a little worried but we know that our God reigns and there is hope in that.
Paul notes in verse 19 that the current situation Paul is facing from prison is not the end. He has faith that this will work out and he will be delivered. The wording of Paul in this section sounds similar to what Job said in as he noted,
Job 13:13–18 NASB95
13 “Be silent before me so that I may speak; Then let come on me what may. 14 “Why should I take my flesh in my teeth And put my life in my hands? 15 “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him. 16 “This also will be my salvation, For a godless man may not come before His presence. 17 “Listen carefully to my speech, And let my declaration fill your ears. 18 “Behold now, I have prepared my case; I know that I will be vindicated.
We know the story of Job very well, right? We know that Job was a person who followed God’s commands and he was tempted and tested by Satan who had asked God’s permission to do so. As a result, Job lost so much in his life. He had things pretty good to begin with and then bad things started to happen to him… That’s how things go in our lives sometimes, isn’t it? Things look pretty good, we have comfort and blessings and we can take them for granted all too often and whenever they are taken away we have the tendency to get bitter and angry. That’s not what Job did, though. Job trusted in the Lord in the good times and the bad times. Paul, as a Jewish Christian, would have known about Job and we see that Paul had this same approach whenever it came to suffering. Even in the bad times, Paul trusted in the Lord. Even whenever people opposed him and nothing made sense - after all this was a person who was throne into jail for planting churches which is exactly what God called him to do! He knew, as Job did, that he would be vindicated by God. He knew that he would be delivered in one way or another!
Friends, we should have this same boldness and confidence today.
Paul goes on to show that his prayer is that he would not be ashamed and that Christ would be exalted in his body. What is Paul getting at here? Paul knows that he is awaiting a trial of sorts and his prayer is that he would triumph and not be put to shame not so that he would look good but so that the power of God would be on full display for all to see! His prayer was that Christ would give him the strength to proceed with this situation and overcome it with boldness rather than caving in and being ashamed of his situation. Paul’s prayer extended to glorify and exalt Christ as well. Paul enjoyed a lot of success during his ministry. He founded dozens of churches. He preached to thousands of people. He debated many secular teachers. He discipled many Christian leaders. Many people looked up to Paul, but his ministry was never about himself. It was never about making a name for himself, rather it was all about proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ to the world! Paul’s prayer here focuses on exalting Christ in life and in death. As tells us
Romans 12:1–2 NASB95
1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
No matter what the cost is, friends, our goal should be to glorify Christ. Paul’s commitment to Jesus shows us that there is no excuse for us not to boldly rejoice in Christ even in our weakness and in our struggle. Christians have been living and rejoicing in the cross of Christ for thousands of years despite being persecuted for it. We should do the same and rejoice along the way because we get to do so without facing a consequence in our great nation! That should be our prayer - that we glorify the King of Kings and rejoice along the way.
As Paul puts in verse 21 we see the climax of this argument. The true way that Christianity goes against Western culture is the fact that we do not live for what this world has to offer. We live for what is awaiting us in eternal glory - as a result, the grave does not have the final word! If we die while proclaiming the name of Jesus, praise God! If we tell others about Jesus this side of heaven and continue on doing so, praise God! To live, in this verse, means that literally everything Paul wanted to do in life was glorify Christ and point others towards Him. Because Paul rightly saw himself as an ambassador for Jesus Christ, even death would be a gain because Paul would be with the Lord and no longer experience the difficulties associated with life on this side of heaven.
With the situations that we find ourselves in nowadays, we could use this reality as well. What would it look like to live this out? It would mean that we would do whatever it takes to take the Gospel message to the lost. It would mean that we have full confidence in God’s plan knowing by heart and knowing that God’s plan is best. We don’t have to play the “what-if” game as Christians, we play the “Even-if” game. We don’t have to say, what if this costs me my life? We can say, even if this costs me my life it’s worth it because it’s all about the Gospel and God’s plan is great.
I love the way that Tony Merida puts this powerful verse: Do you see the power of this perspective? Kill me? I’ll be with Christ. Let me live? I’ll live for Christ. Make me suffer? I’ll experience joy and get rewarded by Christ. This is the unstoppable mentality of the apostle Paul, and it can be ours as well if we treasure Christ above all things.
Do you see the power of this perspective? Kill me? I’ll be with Christ. Let me live? I’ll live for Christ. Make me suffer? I’ll experience joy and get rewarded by Christ. This is the unstoppable mentality of the apostle Paul, and it can be ours as well if we treasure Christ above all things.
So, do you treasure Christ above all things? If so, I pray that this becomes our mentality. If not, we all have work to do and I challenge you to make steps to treasure Christ above all else.
Merida, T., Chan, F., Platt, D., & Akin, D. L. (2016). Exalting jesus in philippians. Nashville, TN: Holman Reference.

Live for Christ (22-26)

The second half of this passage deals with Paul’s problem. He is so fixated on bringing glory to Jesus and longing for his eternal home that he is torn between living and dying. He is not suicidal by any means, rather he understands that he is in a win/win situation! If he lives then he gets to tell others about Jesus, if he dies then he gets to be with Jesus face to face.
Do we approach life with this same joy? Do we live our lives daily with the mentality to share the Gospel with someone as Paul did? We are often so busy that we can forget that this is truly our purpose as Christians. Our purpose is not to build for ourselves earthly treasures or a fancy reputation, rather our purpose as Christians is to tell others about Jesus.
Paul’s desire was to do whatever God wanted him to do, that should be our desire as well! Paul, in verse 23 notes that his desire is to depart and be with Christ. Paul preferred dying… Why on the earth would he want to die? Because he knew where he was going. Paul had this unshakeable confidence in his salvation and he knew that he would be in a better place the minute he passed away. We should have that same unshakeable confidence as well! We believe in this thing called the perseverance of the saints found in
Romans 8:39 NASB95
39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Once you are in Christ Jesus, nothing can take you out of Him. Maybe you’ve heard it said once saved, always saved. I’m not a huge fan of that expression because we don’t have a universal understanding of what “being saved” means. Some people say that being saved is simply a prayer that you pray or some words you say. shows us that you must be born again. Because of that I like the expression once justified, always justified. If you have the Holy Spirit inside of you and if Jesus Christ is Lord of all then nothing can take that away from you. Paul had this confidence and his desire was to go home to be with Jesus. He knew that death was not the end and he knew beyond the shadow of a doubt where his eternal destination was. Do you? Do you know beyond the shadow of a doubt where your eternal destination is?
Do you have someone in your life that is not a Christian? If so, friends, our work is not yet done. Paul knew that if he was alive then he had work to do. He had a job to do and that job was to proclaim the name of Jesus so that the lost might hear this good news and be convicted and become a part of the Kingdom of God. That should be our focus as well! That we remain obedient to our calling and live for Christ each and every day, even whenever it is difficult and our circumstances change.
I’ll be honest with our current predicament, some churches are completely changing the way that they operate. I have many friends who are having to do things differently and stream their worship services online because they cannot meet in person due to government guidelines. We’re not in that situation at Morgan Baptist, but I do want to stress something to us tonight. Does our purpose change if that situation becomes our reality? No. Would it be incredibly different? You bet so! Would we have to figure a million different things out? Of course we would. But our purpose remains the same today as it was for Christians in Paul’s day - to proclaim the name of Jesus regardless of the cost.
That means that we have to look out for others. Look at the life and ministry of Paul, regardless of where he was he preached the Word to whoever was around him. There are some people in our congregation who likely will not be here over the next few weeks for health reasons. What can we do to serve them? How can we share the love of Jesus with them?
If it gets to the point where we can’t physically meet as an entire congregation, how can we continue to encourage one another up in smaller groups? How can we serve others and rejoice along the way? It’s easy to complain and be frustrated with our current situation, it would have been easy for Paul to be frustrated with being imprisoned and locked up whenever he wanted to be out and about proclaiming Christ from the rooftops, yet that was God’s sovereign plan for his life at that time. We must be aware that we are not in charge. We have a duty to look out for others and our purpose never changes as Christians - we proclaim Christ to all and live for Him all the days of our life.


If we look at Paul’s life we see that Paul was always a very devout person, but something changed the minute that he met Jesus Christ. Whenever this happened, everything flipped in his life. He abandoned his old ways and traditions and preached Christ crucified. He did things differently and he had a different mentality than other people around him because he was consumed with the Gospel message being shared.
Are we passionate with sharing that message? Are we confident and bold in our salvation and know beyond the shadow of a doubt what is awaiting us after we draw our final breath this side of heaven? We should have that passion, boldness and confidence.
We’re never given all of the answers in Scripture, we are given whatever it is that we need and we are commanded to trust in the Lord every step of the way. So in uncertain times like the ones we are living in today, have hope in Jesus Christ. Understand that your life does have a purpose and it’s not about you or me, it’s all about Jesus Christ and boasting in our weakness because in our weakness, Jesus Christ is strong.
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