Posted by: lepages | February 15, 2010

‘Living a life worthy of the gospel’

It’s been a really busy week with little spare time, and even training time reduced to just 2 sessions of swim/gym last week (albeit good sessions with PB’s on a 400m swim 8:22, and completion of my 30min pyramid run with only 0.1k drop offs) There would have been at least a third session except for a dog running in front of me as I came over the bridge from Kempston to Queens Park – hit the dog hard – dog okay – me and the bike not so good! Scrapes and bruising, ripped cycling jacket, jumper, jeans, gloves, broken helmet, damaged front wheel, saddle, handlebar tape, saddle bag… and a bit of shock and concussion for me too…. head still hurts but doc says its okay and may hang round for a week to 10 days…. 😦

Anyway, that’s all an excuse for why no updates on the blog!!
Below are the notes from my preach on the above theme from Sunday 7th February. You can listen to it here on the Rutland Road Church website.

Introduction
John Terry, the former England football captain has been much in the news over the past week or so, following an affair with a team mates ex-girlfriend. The situation has provoked much response, debate and discussion over whether he could justifiably continue as England captain – what about the tensions between players in the dressing room? what about the poor role modelling his behaviour gives to young people who look up to him as a role model?

Amar Singh, the England correspondent for Goal.com wrote the following under the headline:-

Why John Terry Must Hand In The Captain’s Armband – Disgraced skipper can no longer command the respect of his team-mates

After a weekend of damaging revelations surrounding John Terry and his affair with Wayne Bridge’s partner Vanessa Perroncel, all eyes are on Fabio Capello.

Will the single-minded England manager take tough action against his publicly-disgraced skipper and demand that he hand over his armband? Regardless, the onus to do the right thing should not be on Capello, but on John Terry.

If the 29-year-old defender wants to preserve the little respect he has left in the England dressing room and ensure he is on that plane to South Africa, he must accept to Capello that his position as captain is now untenable.

Capello, a devout Roman Catholic, is likely to be unimpressed by the allegations this weekend that Terry paid for his secret lover to have an abortion. But the Italian will want to hear Terry’s version of events first, when the two meet in the coming days. After that tense conversation, a decision should be made immediately.

Of course, as with most reporting, not everything in those few paragraphs is entirely correct!
But the old saying about ‘actions speak louder than words’ is often proved true.

We start a new series today, looking at excerpts from Paul’s letter to the Christians in the town of Philippi, written by Paul from imprisonment under Roman guard.

Our heading for today is:-
Living a life worthy of the Gospel
just as there might be an expectation that as England captain, John Terry should live a life worthy of his position and responsibility, so there should be an expectation that as Christians we live a life worthy of our title – the title ‘Christian’ means ‘Christ like ones’… I wonder whether we live a life worthy of that description….

Our Bible base for this week is:-
Philippians 1:27-30
Turn to it with me.

READ Philippians 1:27-30

Paul, writes with incredible honesty, facing the reality of situations as they are. If you look back in the chapter you find in v13 that he is chains for his faith in Christ, but he sees it as a good thing in the surrounding verses, because it has enabled all the palace guard to hear the gospel, and has encouraged others to speak the word of God more boldly. He faces the reality that it may not always be easy to live out your life as a Christian…. and yet he says, at the start of our reading ‘whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ’

‘Whatever happens’
Powerful words. Paul says ‘Whatever happens to me here in prison – conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ’. Paul says, ‘Whatever happens to you – conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.’ Scripture speaks to us and says to us today ‘Whatever happens to you in your life, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ’. If you’re facing a tough time at work, if you’re facing a tough time with your health, if you’re facing a tough time in your marriage, if you’re struggling financially, if you’re facing a struggle as the people of God with opposition being brought against you, if people are giving you a hard time, and even if there’s nothing negative going on in your life and your life is absolutely blessed, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Lets try and unpack this a little from the passage.
If our heading is ‘Living a life worthy of the Gospel’ then lets think about some keys to doing that.

3 sub-headings for us to reflect on:-

live worthily
stand firm
be united

Firstly then, Live worthily

That might seem a very obvious statement, but have you thought about what it might mean?

Prince William has been getting some pretty positive press recently. His tour down under to New Zealand was getting some stick as he arrived, but he went on to win hearts and see a bit of a swing in the media’s reaction to him. He lived worthily of his position as royalty – taking time to show appreciation to others, taking time to enter into where others were at, pitching himself at their level – some haven’t liked his dress – feeling that somehow he ought to be dressed smarter than smart casual – but his approach has brought respect.

Interestingly though, in this minor change for royalty, he hasn’t stepped back from his special position as Prince in the Royal family, he hasn’t ignored his position and just gone out to please himself, as far as we know. He has sought to conduct himself in a manner worthy of his position.

If you are a Christian here this morning, if you believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord, your Saviour, your Master, the one who came to rescue you, then you are now an ambassador for him. I don’t know whether you knew that or not?

1 Corinthians 5:17,19b,20a says:-
“.. if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! …. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God was making his appeal through us.”

How many of you, prior to this moment would have said ‘Yes, I’m an ambassador.’?
Hands up!

If you’re a Christian, you are in a privileged position as an ambassador for God, you are to represent him to others, and to communicate his good news, the gospel, the message of reconciliation, that God wants to put us back into a right relationship with him to others.

The thing is that like being a Prince, being an Ambassador is not only a big responsibility, its also a privileged position. Ambassadors have access to areas that others don’t. They live privileged lifestyles. We as ambassadors for Christ have access to areas that others don’t – we can come right into God’s presence and not only represent God to others, but represent others to God.

The interesting thing is that in fact we as Christians are far more than ambassadors
– as if that was not enough!!
We are like Prince William, members of the Royal Family – and not just the Royal family of the British Isles and the Commonwealth, but of the King of kings.
God adopts us into his family as his sons and daughters – you are therefore not only ambassadors for the King of kings, but you are Princes and Princesses!

Do you value yourself?
Because you should!
If God sees fit to choose you to be one of his sons and daughters, to be one of his ambassadors, you are a highly valuable person and living a life worthy of the gospel means recognising that you are a valuable person, that you are adopted as a son or daughter of the King of kings, that you now are his ambassador.

So live worthily! Enjoy your privileged position, but use it wisely to represent your Saviour to all those around. Realise that it means living in a way which honours God in every aspect of your life – just as John Terry needs to realise that in his privileged position as England captain it means honouring that position not just on the field, but in the whole of life.

Living worthily though doesn’t mean being so full of your own self importance that you’re not prepared to get down to other’s levels to be able to relate to them. Maybe Prince William’s dressing down smart casual is appropriate to enable others to relate to him as he seeks to relate to them. Maybe his joking about staying behind for a beer with members of the New Zealand Rugby team was appropriate. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:22
“I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.”

How much does this parallel our Lord Jesus, who whilst rightly in the glories of heaven, laid aside his glory and his privileged position, and came down and identified with us as a human being. But yet, in doing so, still retained a right perspective on who he was and remained the son of the living God – not just in name but in his nature – living worthily of who he was and is – and we need to do the same – live worthily of our position as sons and daughters of the King of kings, as his ambassadors, who have the incredible privilege of speaking forth his gospel, his good news of how we can be reconciled, brought back into a right relationship with God and with one another.

If we are to ‘live worthily’, then Paul tells us we must:-
Stand firm

Paul says v27 ‘stand firm in one spirit’

There is no illusions here about an easy ride, or a comfortable Christian life – quite the contrary, there is an expectation that as Christians we may well suffer for our faith, an expectation that we may face struggles, that people may well oppose us as Christian believers as we hold to the truth.

I heard this week of a local church that was being pressurised to loan its premises to someone for activities that were not in sympathy with their aims and purposes as a church. The lady concerned was very aggressive with the staff and leaders concerned. A short time later a certain well-known local newspaper was on the phone trying to stir up a controversial story line.

The leaders concerned stood firm, and responded in a way worthy of the gospel, and thus far the paper has not published anything. Standing firm isn’t about being arrogant and dogmatic – its about holding to truth in the one Spirit.

I share this story, not as a boast, but to illustrate the value in standing firm.
Many years ago – a short while after moving into Queens Park, I was stopped by a group of 4 Asian lads as I walked down Ford End Road ‘What the…. do you think you’re doing here you ……. white …….?’ They were behaving in a very threatening way, it wasn’t comic mucking around with some guys I knew. Those are the words I remember. Others were saying other things about what they’d do to me. I’m sure prompted by the Holy Spirit, I replied, ‘You can’t do anything to me, unless Jesus allows it. God bless you guys.’ This took them aback somewhat, they stumbled for words, separated out and waved me through. I’ve never faced that problem since. Maybe it was the devil’s way of trying to inhibit me at the start of our life in Queens Park..

‘Stand firm in one spirit’ – our greatest aid to living a life worthy of the Gospel is the Holy Spirit, living a life filled with his presence and his power. But this sentence is written in the plural – its written to a body of people and it brings us to our third key to living a life worthy of the Gospel and its this:-

Be united

We are not called to live out our Christian lives on our own, we are to stand together, ‘stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel.’ scripture says.

The American Standard Version puts it like this:-
‘stand fast in one spirit, with one soul striving for the faith of the gospel’

We are to stand together in proclaiming the gospel – we are not supposed to stand alone.
Peter on the day of Pentecost stood up with the other apostles. Throughout the mission of the early church we see, by and large, apostolic teams going out together to proclaim the gospel and see churches planted and established. Throughout the world today the most effective mission takes place where teams of people work together to share the gospel.

This is where cell groups are valuable. We can stand together with one another – support one another when the tough times come, stand together in supporting one another as together we seek to proclaim the gospel. This is where days like our Vision day are valuable where we share heart ideas as to how we might reach out with the good news of Jesus, and so live a life worthy of the gospel, and then we together gain a heart for what we may do together ‘contending as one man’ ‘with one soul striving’ – these phrases stir in me the thought of beating with one heart, with one purpose to see God’s kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.

But this call to be united, to stand firm in one spirit and fight for the gospel together is not just something for a local church – God’s family is much wider than this local congregation, and so in presenting the gospel we need to be united with other Christians in ‘contending as one man for the faith of the gospel’. This is where projects like A Passion for Life have such value as we are able to stand with Christians from across our town to proclaim the gospel – lots of different events suited to inviting different folk along to, to hear the gospel in a way appropriate to the atmosphere of the event – be it a sports quiz night, a comedy night, a question time, or a rock concert. This is where its valuable to come and stand together and witness to the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus in our town centre with folk from many churches on our Good Friday Act of Witness.

(Note – poor image quality will be amended in future!!)
This is where its valuable to go along to something like Grapevine and have your eyes opened to what God is doing in the wider church, to worship with a large crowd of people, akin to sitting with the thousands who heard Jesus speaking on the Galilean hillsides, to have good teaching which builds and strengthens us in our faith so that we can stand firm and live a life worthy of the gospel.

Conclusion
So are you ready to live a life worthy of the gospel? Ready to live as a son or daughter of the king and be his ambassador.

Following the preach we begun our responsive worship with Graham Kendrick’s song as below….

We shall stand
With our feet on the Rock
Whatever men may say
We’ll lift your name up high
And we shall walk
Through the darkest night
Setting our faces like flint
We’ll walk into the light

Lord, you have chosen me
For fruitfulness
To be transformed into your likeness
I’m gonna fight on through
’til I see you face to face

Lord, as your witnesses
You’ve appointed us
And with your Holy Spirit
Anointed us
And so I’ll fight on through
’til I see You face to face

Graham Kendrick
Copyright © 1988 Make Way Music,
http://www.grahamkendrick.co.uk

I have another sermon from yesterday to post (with similar content though starting from a different place) and a bunch of reflections from time with God to share too… hopefully in the next few days!

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