Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Living With A Purpose

Bible Readings:- Philippians 1:27-2:2; Mark 3:25; John 13:35.

1. Introduction:
People who identify and commit to a purpose beyond themselves find life both meaningful and stimulating. It doesn’t have to be a religious purpose to motivate. Professional athletes, entrepreneurs, or having and loving children could be reasons to live.

Fidel Castro hated America and its influence in his country. He hated Cuban dictators, so he began to resist and to plot, going through much hardship for the sake of becoming the leader of Cuba. Paying the price, he succeeded. Having a purpose, you find meaning in life.

But non-religious causes will ultimately come up short. Only a purpose that that derives from God, dealing with who and why we are, withstands the rest of time when it comes to the ultimate meaning and motivation. Paul lays down a challenge worthy of our consideration, “Stand… firm in a common spirit, fighting side by side (Moffat) with one strong purpose to tell the Good News (TLB)” (v.27).

This challenge is worthy of you and will carry you all your life. Regardless of the many secondary purposes to which you might commit, becoming a warrior in the cause of making Christ known will keep you fulfilled and motivated for a life-time. Let’s consider Paul’s insights as to how Christians are to present Christ to our world.

2. Stand Firm - Resist Cultural Tides:
The Annapolis Royal gorge off the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia has a 35-foot differential in water levels because of the tides. A dam built across its mouth allows for two-way flow of the water. The moon and planets pull the water in without resistance. Gates close and water flows out through turbines. 20,000 watts per hour of hydroelectric power have been produced since 1984. Resistance to the flow of tides has great value, also bless their world.

Paul says, “Resist the tides of secularism as you try to tell the Good News. Resist the idea that ‘tolerance’ is the best response as long as others don’t hurt you. Resist the idea that man is just a smarter animal. Resist the materialistic and pleasure-seeking trends. Don’t let the cultural mood shut you up or scare you off. Our society calls for the exchange of ideas and values.” Let’s sell our thinking in the market-place of ideas. Next Paul urges us to present the Good News…
3. Be In One Spirit – Hearts Knit Together (v.30):
You are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.” What is his point? When we know that we are not alone in tough times, we can take it. Misery loves company. When we know that others are willing to go through the same challenge that we are, we take courage from it and hang tough.

Jesus said, “A house…. divided against itself cannot stand” (Mark 3:25). And, “If the world sees hat you love one another, they will know that I am who I claim to be” (see John 13:35). When the world looks at Christians, the most powerful evidence that Jesus is real is that we care for each other differently than secularists do.

4. Fight Side By Side - Like A Team (v.27):
Contending as one man for the… gospel.” When you are busy fighting a common enemy, you don’t have time to quarrel with one another. Families often squabble with one another, but let an outsider get on a family member, and they are ready to draw blood. Christians should keep the main thing the main thing, majoring on majors and minoring on minors. Professing believers are not the enemy, i.e. extravagant televangelists, fiery Pentecostals, or ritualistic Presbyterians. None of these is our enemy.
Satan, the world that ignores Christ, and the flesh are our enemy. Any force or person or institution that would work against or prohibit of the Good News is the enemy. Our task is to get shoulder to shoulder against these to fight together for the cause of Christ to be teammates.

The movie, Hoosiers immortalized the classic David versus Goliath story of high school basketball. A small beat the big city team. At the first practice, the new coach had to gain control. He asserted his authority and built a team. He got them to sacrifice personal glory, scoring points to play a role so that all could reach the goal, winning! The coach said, “Let’s be real clear about what we’re after here, team, team, team. Five players on the floor functioning as one single human being. OK? No one more important than the other.”

Christians are called to learn to live, love, and work together, resisting all who oppose the Good News. People who identify and commit to a purpose beyond themselves find life meaningful and stimulating. In your vocation, your family, your education, and your recreation, keep focused on the main task, making Christ known and loved.

All believers are part of a team contending for the gospel. Some may be injured and others sitting on the bench. Some are still in the locker-room getting taped, while others are exhausted. But everyone has a vital role to play. Paul was confident, “I will know that you stand firm, resisting the cultural tides that erode, fighting side by side, operating like a team, each filling his role.”

5. How Do We Contend For The Faith? :

5.1. Let Our Conduct Be According To A High Standard (v.27): “Conduct… worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Owning Christ’s cause has a Lifestyle implication, we are to be the best we can be in Christ. Profession without practice invalidates our profession. The most common excuse used by those outside the church is hypocrisy. Though it may not be a deliberate double-life, those observing don’t know what is going on inside you. They cannot see that you really wanted to do good but failed. They think you are professing one thing and living another.

How crucial it is that our conduct reinforces our profession of faith! We can say all the right things and go to church every week, but our lives will be destructive to non-Christians if our attitudes and actions do not match the biblical standard.

5.2. Let Our Attitude Show That We Understand And Resist Fear (v.28):Without being frightened… by those who oppose you.” Owning Christ’s cause has a psychological implication; People will oppose what and who you are. But most are not deliberately out to destroy our faith. Rather, they are wrestling with their sin, feeling guilt and shame, while not wanting to stop sinning. Yet, second, they perceive the church as standing in the way of coming to God.

Their perception is that the church offers boring services, irrelevant sermons, hypocrisy, and chances to get control out of your money. What is reality? Millions want what Jesus offers, meaning, assurance about eternity, contentment, peace of mind, and a healthy marriage. Our task is to clearly say that to hurting people, if we would live up to what we say we believe, the message would get through. People are not against Jesus. They are against their perception of how we have packaged Jesus.

When you start to live differently, being with friends, but not getting drunk; spending quality time with your spouse and children; cutting out marginal movies; going to church; walking away from profane jokes; defending those whom your coffee mates defame, friends don’t like it. You hold up a mirror, your changed life, and what they see by comparison is how bad their lives are.       

They don’t like what they see. What is the result? Psychological pressure from them and frustration in them causes them to pressure you, to tease you, to tempt you to yield and sin with them. Then they can relax, because they have proven that you are no better than they are. Don’t be frightened by those who oppose you.

In God’s purpose, you believe in forgiveness and suffer for Christ (v.29). Count it an honour that you are trusted to be one on whom Christ can rely, knowing you will stand firm against opposition.
5.3. Experience Enjoying Christ’s Blessings (2:1-2):
If you have any encouragement from… Christ, if any comfort… if any fellowship… if any tenderness and compassion… be… one in spirit and purpose.” Owning Christ’s cause has an emotional implication; God does not simply say, “Buck up, keep a stiff upper lip, don’t cry.” Rather, He provides all that we need for emotional health.

There is no greater cause than that of bringing atheists, agnostics, and secularists to personal trust in Jesus as the Giver of Eternal Life. Our message is, come clean (confess) and come home (repent) to God. There is a team that needs you to tell the Good News to self-centered, wounded people.

The song, “There is a Balm in Gilead” says,

If you cannot preach like Peter,
If you cannot pray like Paul,
You can tell the love of Jesus,
And say, ‘He died for all’

You’ve a role in telling the Good News.


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