I want to share four things that happen every day across the world. Every day, 13 Christians are killed because of their faith. Every day, 12 Churches (or Christian buildings) are attacked. Every day, 12 Christians are unjustly arrested or imprisoned. Every day, 5 Christians are abducted. [Source: 2021 Worldwide Watch List by Open Doors]
Let’s talk about the worst areas across the world to be a Christian. Top five countries. Afghanistan, North Korea, Somalia, Libya, Yemen. [Source: 2021 Worldwide Watch List by Open Doors]
I give you this information today because it prepares us to walk through the letter of Philippians.
I must ask you, what did you do today? I ask because our understanding in North America of how to live out Christianity can be from the perspective of extreme comfort. And because of our extreme comfort, we don’t fully understand what our brothers and sisters face across the world. For them, making a decision to follow Jesus means they will face suffering. If the authorities find out they are a Christian, they will lose their house, their business, their family, their freedom. That’s hard for us to understand.
For us, because of our extreme comfort, we really don’t have to make a decision to follow Jesus – now. We don’t have to go all in – today. There’s no urgency. No one is going to hold us accountable. If we make a decision for Jesus now or later, what’s going to change? We wake up on Sundays and for us we have to decide, ‘Is today a ‘me’ day or is it a ‘church day’?’ We have the luxury to check out of church and do what we want, when we want, how we want. And if anyone confronts us, we just hop and shop to the next church that seems more exciting. We visit the next church and wonder, ‘What do they have for me?’ Why is this? Because we live in extreme comfort. Christians in Afghanistan do not live like we do.
So I must ask you, if you knew you were going to be persecuted for following Jesus, would you want everyone to know you are a Christian?
So I ask, what did you do today? Did you engage God? Did you engage your local church? Did you binge Netflix, drink wine, and complain about how hard your life is? Has your extreme comfort led you to check out from life? Are you kicking the decision to follow Jesus into tomorrow?
Please hear me. Every day, 13 Christians are killed because of their faith. Every day, 12 Churches (or Christian buildings) are attacked. Every day, 12 Christians are unjustly arrested or imprisoned. Every day, 5 Christians are abducted. You must know, Christianity is under attack.
11 God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way. NLT Matthew 5:11-12
We are walking through the letter of Philippians. Sam talked about how the church in Philippi was started. And as Sam walked us through the story, you realize how much of a train wreck it was. Sam slowed us down and pointed out what scripture says.
We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. NLT Proverbs 16:9
We then jumped into chapter one of Philippians. We said to understand this letter, you need to understand the core of Christianity. It’s having the attitude like Christ. It’s surrender. It’s living your life and understanding your life isn’t yours anymore, it’s God’s.
Last week Sam continued in Philippians and talked about the mindset that Paul had. He had this ability to face and overcome every challenge. Sam pointed out how Paul did it. First, Paul saw every circumstance, good or bad, as an opportunity. Second, Paul celebrated everyone. Third, Paul viewed Jesus as the most important thing in life so no matter if Paul lived or died, Paul was content. What a ferocious way to live.
Today, I want to walk you through the end of chapter one. If you have read Chapter 1, you know this part is different. Paul was writing about himself being imprisoned but in this part, Paul is talking to the church in Philippi about their persecution. In these four verses, Paul explains how you live out being a Christian in a world that hates Jesus.
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. NLT Philippians 1:27-30
Let’s walk through what Paul is saying.
27a Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. NLT Philippians 1:27-30
Remember a couple of weeks ago when we said, when you give your life to Christ, your life isn’t yours anymore. Your life belongs to God. You aren’t the center of the universe anymore, God is. How you live represents God in this world. Your decisions and how you live matters because your life isn’t yours anymore. To wear the title ‘Christian’ means something.
What is it this world dislikes? When someone says they follow Jesus and at the same time, they don’t act like they follow Jesus. It’s called being a hypocrite. Paul is saying, if you want the label ‘Christian’, to be a disciple of Christ, you have to live it out. If you call yourself a Christian, then live it out with integrity. Don’t be a hypocrite. Of course, it’s not about perfection, it’s about being honest as you live it out. But live it out. The apostle John said, if you aren’t living it out, you are lying.
If we say we are his friends but go on living in spiritual darkness and sin, we are lying. TLB 1 John 1:6
Your life should be proof that God is real. If you wear the title ‘Christian’ and actively and consistently live in spiritual darkness, you are lying. John would say, you are not a Christian. It should be evident that there is something different about you.
Let’s ask a few questions. Is your life proof to others that God is real? Do you love? Do you forgive? Do you live with hope? Do you view every circumstance as an opportunity? Do you celebrate others? Do you live with holiness? Do you live with that attitude of Christ? Do you live in courage? How are you at caring for those closest to you?
The first thing Paul makes clear is, have integrity. If you are going to wear the title ‘Christian’ in this world, live like it. Paul continues,
27b 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. NLT Philippians 1:27-30
See those words, ‘…standing together with one spirit and one purpose?’ That means, as a church, live out your integrity together. Be united. Be focused on the things that matter and fight to advance God’s kingdom. Here at MRC, what is our greatest desire, our vision, the thing that gives us passion? In one word it’s, ‘imagine.’ Imagine a church that is passionate, relentless, and unapologetic at reaching people far from God and inviting Christians into that mission? That’s it. That’s what we fight for. That’s what we agree on. That is what draws us together. That’s why we do what we do.
We don’t wake up every day and ask the question, ‘How can we be like other churches?’ No, we wake up every day and ask, ‘How can we engage our community?’ When you get that, you get MRC.
Do we all agree on everything? No. It’s a ridiculous idea to think we can keep everyone happy. From worship, volume of worship, style of worship, prayer, events, teaching, leaders, there is no way we could agree on everything. So what do we do? We do what Philippians teaches. We agree on what matters with one spirit and one purpose.
That’s why at MRC you don’t see a lot of people focusing inwardly. That means there isn’t a lot of bickering about details. A lot of endless arguments about theology. A lot of long-term bitterness or resentment because of jealousy. It’s not our culture. It’s not what we do. Instead, we are focused on the bigger more important things.
As Paul is explaining how you live as a Christian in a world that hates Jesus, Paul is saying, have integrity and live it out with others. He continues.
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. NLT Philippians 1:27-30
You know that if you live out what it means to be a Christian, you will be hated – right? You will have enemies. You will feel intimidated. People who don’t love God will hate you. You are in a spiritual battle. Sam talked about this last week. He walked through the ways we will face a spiritual battle.
Jesus was clear,
18 If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. NIV John 15:18-19
It should be no surprise, as we stand together as a church for the things of God, the world will hate us. As we stand for the things of God, as we draw closer to God, not everyone will be happy. Remember how we started today? Every day, 13 Christians are killed because of their faith. 12 Churches (or Christian buildings) are attacked. 12 Christians are unjustly arrested or imprisoned. 5 Christians are abducted.
And as an unbelieving demonic world may stand against us, we are not afraid, and we will not walk in fear in any way. Paul said, don’t be intimated. Your courage is proof that light is standing against darkness. It’s proof of what side you are on.
Paul is saying, have integrity. Live out your integrity with others. When you face hate, don’t be intimidated. He continues.
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. NLT Philippians 1:27-30
Did you know that? In your relationship with Jesus, you have been given the gift of faith. You probably know that and heard lots of sermons on having faith. Did you also know, in your relationship with Jesus, you have the privilege of suffering for Jesus? Yes, Paul said, ‘privilege.’
In North America, we don’t tell new Christians the whole story do we? We tell people about grace, love, and acceptance. We make following Jesus sound fun, successful, and exciting. We don’t tell them the other part, the privilege of suffering. What we should say is, if you aren’t ready to suffer for Jesus, maybe you should rethink being a Christian.
Actually, how many Christians who grew up in the church know this?
Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. NLT 2 Timothy 3:12
Let’s be clear. You will face suffering. You will face spiritual push back. You may not be in the list of 13 Christians who lose their lives today, but you will face suffering. There is a cost to wear the label, Christian. And if you aren’t ready to pay that cost, maybe you should rethink being a Christian.
What is the cost for us today, right now, where we live? You will stand alone. Outside of your church friends and close friends, you will stand alone. And you will discover, it is easier to not get involved. And in that moment you decide to not engage, you walked away from the privilege of suffering for Jesus.
Christian leaders around the world are talking about America. They say that we as Christians are facing soft persecution. You and I are not one of the 5 abducted for our faith, but we are facing soft persecution. How? Social media censorship. Surveillance and tracking. Social credit score (your credit isn’t based on your ability to pay your bills, its based on if you agree with culture). Terrorism redefined (Anything said that does not agree with the socialistic narrative is considered hate speech). If labeled a Christian, you may be treated differently. The world creating a new financial system.
Now to be clear, did I say you should be rebellious and claim you are suffering for Jesus? No. Did I say you can be a jerk, obnoxious, and claim you are suffering for Jesus? No. Did I say, you can do stupid things. Then have people treat you like you are stupid. And then you say you are suffering for Jesus? No. I said, when you stand for the Name of Jesus, you will stand alone. And that is okay. Paul said, don’t be intimidated.
What did Jesus tell us?
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. NIV Matthew 5:13
You are the salt in this world. The cost in our culture today, you will stand alone. You will stand alone in school. You will stand alone at the job site. You will stand alone with all your friends. You may even stand alone in your marriage and your family.
How do we live out being a Christian in a world that hates Jesus? First, if you are going to wear the title Christian, have integrity and actually live it out. Second, live out your integrity with others in the local church. Third, when you stand up for the Name of Jesus, don’t back down, don’t be intimated. Lastly, don’t be surprised when you find that you have to stand alone for the Name of Jesus.
Every day, 13 Christians are killed because of their faith. Every day, 12 Churches (or Christian buildings) are attacked. Every day, 12 Christians are unjustly arrested or imprisoned. Every day, 5 Christians are abducted.
Let me ask you, what did you do today? Did you engage? Did you discover it is easier to not get involved?
Please hear me. The cost: You will stand alone.