Summary: In a world that is hostile to the message of Jesus, do we dare to stand for him whatever the cost?
TAKE A STAND FOR JESUS
Taking a stand on any issue requires conviction. You have to believe that what you are standing firm on is somehow the most righteous position you can think of. Without this conviction you will be swayed by persuasive argument to give up your position, or at least to see flaws in it.
Have you ever taken a stand on anything? I am trying to remember when I held my ground on an issue and did not give in and it is difficult to think of one. Not many of us are challenged to take such a stand. Or, because we live in such an age of compromise, we have not learned to dig in our heels and say that we oppose this or that. Besides, people who take a stand are radicals and expose themselves to ridicule and humiliation. Unless of course everyone else is against it too.
To take a stand is a brave and lonely thing. It will mean ostracism and criticism for you if you decide that this or that issue is worth it. And that’s the question: Is it worth it?
Charles Colson mentions in one of his books that he saw a picture of a college demonstrator holding up a sign that read, “Nothing is worth dying for.” But, Colson wrote, if nothing is worth dying for, then nothing is worth living for either.
I did a quick study of “taking a stand” and found that down through history people have taken a stand against various social evils. People have stood for the abolition of slavery, the rights of women to vote, to end the Vietnam War, to end the Gulf War, for equal rights, for equal pay for men and women in the work place, for civil rights, for children’s rights…the list is endless. Some brave people caught in the vice of choosing to stand or compromising with the status quo did decide that some things were worth losing everything for.
Our question this morning is this: Are we willing to take a stand for Jesus, the joy of our salvation, in a world opposed to his message? And are we notable for living the life worthy of the gospel?
1. What it means to stand
a) The conduct of a Christian – This is Paul’s question to the Philippians too. Will you stand for Jesus? He says it this way, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (27a).
Missing in some of our English translations is the word “only.” It is as if Paul had said, “This thing and this only.” So it is not so much a question as an absolute and exclusive command: “Do this one thing and this only.” His own creed was “To live is Christ; to die is gain,” and he required the Philippians to do no less.
“Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” What does this mean? I began to think of some things that quickly turned into a kind of legalism. Does it mean that we dress differently? Will abstaining from alcohol and television make me worthy of the gospel? Paul’s answer to this is clearly in these verses.
To conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel speaks of citizenship, the citizenship of heaven. The word “conduct” is where we get our word “political” and refers to citizenship in particular. The citizens living in Philippi would have quickly picked up on what Paul was saying. Acts 16:12 describes Philippi as “…Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia.” Philippi was not in Rome proper but was in what we now call Greece, a conquered land. But it had all the privileges of a Roman city. They were not taxed, the architecture and culture were all Roman, while people dressed Roman and had Roman names. This was a great privilege because no other city in the region had such a status. They were honored to be “Little Rome,” and the city of Philippi would do nothing to smear that reputation.
In the same way, Paul told the Philippians that while they lived on earth, their habits should reflect heaven, since they were citizens of heaven through the grace of Christ. Our habits, our dress, our lifestyle, our speech, our manner of life must weigh the same as the gospel we say we believe in. We are citizens of heaven too, and our lives need to match that.
b) Stand firm in one Spirit – Paul goes on to highlight three key characteristics of those who conduct themselves as heavenly citizens. Here’s the first, “Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit…” (27b).