Let me tell you why I am being so blunt this morning.We are engaged in a war that we seem to have forgotten about and having forgotten we are losing the skills of a soldier. We use to talk like that, using the language of war. We used to sing hymns like "Onward Christian Soldier". We used to understand that we were saved to join in the battle, to fight for other souls. Now we are holding tea parties and love festivals in our churches. We do not want to challenge the people, to engage them in this warfare for fear they may leave. Instead of seeing each other as partners the various churches see each other as competitors. We are a mess. So we should feel challenged by these words in Philippians 1:
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. 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, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. vs. 27-28
I wonder if there are many in our churches who would understand what it is to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. We get to see here what Paul considered to be some of the results of living in a worthy manner. First, those who are conducting themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ stand firm in one Spirit.They stand against lies and opposition. They stand against evil and unholy things. They stand against things that want to destroy man. Second, those wanting to conduct themselves in this worthy manner understand the importance of each believer. They desire unity in this war so that we are contending as one man. Do you want to see the enemy run? Then stand united with a couple of other believers and see what happens. Now imagine if a whole congregation stood in unity. Third, those conducting themselves in a worthy manner know no fear. Fear is the sign of the absence of faith and no one without faith could ever be considered worthy. But these three things are not the real kicker this morning.
There is something else Paul brings up here that reveals to us that change has to happen in the western Church. Are you ready for this?
For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him. v. 29
Read that again. Okay, now a third time. Are you reading that properly? It has been granted to us; we have been given the privilege; we have been honoured with the gift of belief and also suffering. Say what? We have been given the privilege to suffer for Jesus. Whoa! Why was I not taught this in Sunday School? How come no one had me read the small print before I signed up for this? Does anyone else in the Church know about this? By all the whining and crying I would say not. "Hey folks, instead of complaining about what you are facing you should be rejoicing." I am not sure that would go over very well in the counseling sessions or in the Sunday morning sermon. We have a very low threshold of pain, and it has to change.
We are never going to reach the masses of unsaved in this world by our tea parties and love festivals. We have to be willing to pay the cost as Paul did, face opposition, be united, fight in the same spirit, laugh in the face of fear and be willing to feel the pain. Wars are won on the backs of the suffering soldiers who sacrifice themselves for the sake of victory over the enemy. We need a change of mentality to actually rejoice in our suffering. To take on the same attitude of the apostles who rejoiced that they were considered worthy enough to suffer for THE Name. Are we there? Can we honestly say we are there, or do we love our life too much to suffer and die for the salvation of another soul?
Much has changed since the days of "Onward Christian Soldier" but we can still get there. We just need the Spirit to change us. Let's sing:
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before. Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe; forward into battle see his banners go! At the sign of triumph Satan's host doth flee; on then, Christian soldiers, on to victory! Hell's foundations quiver at the shout of praise; brothers, lift your voices, loud your anthems raise.
Like a mighty army moves the church of God; brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod. We are not divided, all one body we, one in hope and doctrine, one in charity. Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane, but the church of Jesus constant will remain. Gates of hell can never gainst that church prevail; we have Christ's own promise, and that cannot fail. Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng, blend with ours your voices in the triumph song. Glory, laud, and honor unto Christ the King, this through countless ages men and angels sing.
Sabine Baring-Gould, 1834-1924