Hello and welcome to Thursday’s foundations podcast. Today’s reading is Philippians 1: 27-30. We’re just going to focus today on the first part of verse 27:
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ
Over the course of the week as we’ve journeyed through chapter one of this great letter we’ve highlighted how Paul is seeking to encourage the Philippians believers and in turn how this encourages us. Yesterday, we looked at how we find our purpose in Christ; today the encouragement is to seek to put Jesus first in all areas of our lives.
A brief reminder again of the context Paul is writing in to here. Philippi was a Roman colony, a place very much under the control and influence of the Empire. Here, at this time, Caesar was Lord ruling over society – its laws, its politics, its economy, and its building developments even the arts and how people were entertained. It was all under his authority.
And so in todays focus verse the fact that Paul uses the phrase ‘manner of your life’ is interesting one because it’s a sort of play on words really. In the Greek it can also be translated like this ‘only behave as citizens’. This is kingdom language. And so Paul here is reminding the believers in Philippi that they should look to Jesus, not Caesar, for their model of behaviour. That they serve a different king.
As we alluded to on Tuesday, it’s really obvious when we look at our modern day society that it’s not Jesus but other things who reign as king and ultimately shape and form people’s behaviour and how they live their lives. For many, life is all about the acquisition of wealth, advancing a career, gaining influence and friends, finding a relationship– all in the pursuit of a better, happier and more fulfilling life. To many in our society, these goals, these things we seek after have become king, the number one priority – it’s all about me. And consequently this affects how people make decisions– what they do with their time, their money, where they live, who they make friends with. Ultimately, it seems we’re out to serve ourselves.
But you, Paul encourages the Philippians, serve another king. Jesus told his first disciples this – Seek first my kingdom and righteousness and all these things – the things I know you need – will be given as well. What does seeking first the kingdom of God look like? The sermon the mount – Matthew Chapters 5-7 spells it out to us in detail. But if we want an even simpler reference point it’s this – and I quote my good friend and excellent youth leader, Ste Knox, here – ‘Is what I’m doing loving God and is it loving other people?’. I wonder what would happen if we began to ask that question each time we came to make key decisions about how we use our time, our money, our homes, our social media accounts – the big stuff – to the everyday decisions like how do I respond when someone cuts me up when I’m driving, when my child throws yet another tantrum or what do I say when I see a colleague is clearly struggling?
Paul’s message to the Philippians is this, look carefully at your life – who are you really serving…is it Caesar – the powers of the world – or is it Jesus?
For us, we could ask ourselves that very same question – how is the world and my perceived needs shaping my decision making? It’s a really challenging question isn’t it? Maybe God is putting his finger on something right now – a moment, a place, an area of our lives where we’ve not put God first or been that loving to the people around us. Where we’ve sought to serve ourselves and pushed God out of the picture.
What Paul is saying here is this is something we constantly need to be aware of. We don’t wake up one day and suddenly find ourselves far from God. We need to watch the drift. As my colleague, Tom Finnemore, is often fond of quoting we need to hear again Joshua’s challenge to the Israelites – ‘choose whom this day you will serve’.
So, as we step into this new day, let’s be mindful of how the one we serve first served and loved us. That he has loved us with an unfailing love. And that even when we mess up, his grace and mercies are new every day. Today, let us look to him and through following his example that we brick by brick, piece by piece, decision by decision, lay the foundations of the eternal kingdom that he is building right here on Earth – starting with us.
Lord Jesus, thank you that your kingdom is an everlasting one. That we, through what you did on the cross, now receive a new identity – citizens of heaven. Help me Lord this day to love you, to put you first, to follow your lead and to reflect your goodness to those around me. Let it be said of me this day Lord that I held nothing back from you. That I gave what I could for you. That I was faithful to you this day. In Jesus name. Amen.
BIBLE READING: Philippians1:27-30 (ESV)
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.