Summary: What it means to actually be a citizen of heaven.
October 17, 2010 Phil. 1:27a
In the “big picture”, what is your life really about? What do you want out of it, what do you expect out of it, where are you putting your energies and efforts on a day-by-day basis? And I mean that “day-by-day” bit, it is easy for someone to say “it is all about family” but then work 70 hours a week and never see family. How do you live?
We jump back this morning into our journey through Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi. We have just seen some very personal, emotional writing, with Paul wrestling with the thought of dying and being with Jesus (and how great that would be) against how he feels still needed by young churches whom he can help, even as a prisoner in Rome awaiting trial and possibly death. We’ve seen how everything for Paul revolves around the Gospel (what I called “Jesus first”). Those first 26 verses of chapter one have been about Paul, how he is doing, what he has been praying for, some of his struggles, and has been by way of introduction.
Verse 27 changes direction – Paul has (for the most part) finished speaking about his life and now begins to write about the other pressing issues he wishes to address with his close friends. This verse serves as kind of an introduction to the rest of the book, and so I want to look at it quite deeply together. We aren’t going to get far in our journey through Philippians today, instead we are going to pause and go deep, in less than half of one verse. I know that is a little out of the ordinary, I generally choose a passage that is longer to preach on and I do my research and make decisions about what it meant when it was written, how that translates to us today, and then what it says to us about how to live, and I then focus our attention on the “what it means and what that says to us”, but today we are going to instead take a deep, long look at a short passage, and I’m going to walk you through some process so maybe you can be equipped to look deeper for yourself as you study Scripture. And I want to ask you to do something as we begin: set aside your biases, and choose to enter in so that God can speak. You might not like to study one thing in detail, you might feel like parts of this morning are too “academic”, but I’m confident we can all figure it out and I’m more confident that the Holy Spirit can speak to us through the Word of God in a small piece of one verse. And I’m confident that some of us really do like to get down deep and figure things out, so come along with us and enjoy how much we enjoy it, even if you find it hard to enjoy for yourself.
Phil 1:27-20 (NLT)
I do want to read the passage in context, and then we’ll study one part of it together.
Live as Citizens of Heaven
27 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. 28 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. 29 For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. 30 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.
Now that we’ve read it in context, let’s go back and focus today on this first phrase:
“27 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.”
Paul begins this new section with a single word, an attention-getter. It would be like us saying, “ok, listen carefully…”, or, “pay attention now…”, and then saying “the most important thing in all of life is…”. Paul often writes long lists, gives a bunch of commands, strings together a series of ideas, but here he does something different: he has just one. So we should sit up, and pay close attention, because what is about to come is a lens – something intended to bring all of life into focus, a perspective through which we can organize and understand our entire reason to be, a truth that shines light – brightly! – into every corner of our existence. Paul’s intent is that we should sit up and pay very close attention to that which comes next.