Not From Around Here - Part 1

Tom Pennington • Philippians 1:27-30

  • 2004-02-29 AM
  • Sermons


When I was in seminary, each summer I returned to Mobile, Alabama, to work. I made great money for a summer worker as an electrician's apprentice, working in the teeming metropolis of Bayou La Batre, Alabama. Known by the locals as BaLa Batre. It's only claim to fame was a movie a few years ago that was fairly well known. Other than that, it was not. I spent my summers wiring boats. Every summer I ended up with a different partner, and it was a great opportunity, and the Lord gave me a number for evangelism while I worked there in the shipyards, but each of those partners I had, had his own musical eccentricities. For example, one summer, for about fifty hours a week I listened over and over again to the top forty. I can still recite some of those songs which I won't do to you this morning.

The next summer though I ended up with Gary. Now Gary was a great electrician, but Gary dearly loved country music, and so for fifty to sixty hours a week I heard country music. But as much as he loved country music, Gary loved even more Paul Harvey's commentary. So, every lunch hour we had to make it a point to be going somewhere so we could be in the van with the radio tuned in to hear Paul Harvey's commentary.

One of those days, I remember Paul told the story about a couple from the north who went down (for reasons that still aren't clear to me) as tourists to southern Mississippi. And they came upon a town, they came upon a town that had a strange name. The name was spelled G-a-u-t-i-e-r. Well, after a lengthy argument between this couple over the proper pronunciation, they decided to ask their waitress. And so, the next time she came back the husband asked, "Ma'am, would you pronounce the name of where we are very slowly so we can get it?" The waitress looked at them with one of those famous you're-not-from-around-here-are-you? looks, and then she said in this pronounced southern drawl, "Dairy Queen." (laugh)

It can be awkward when you visit somewhere unfamiliar. You kind of stand out. I was told for example, that if I ever get cowboy boots, make sure that I don't wear the jeans that I normally wear with tennis shoes because it will be obvious that I'm "not from around here." So there're these little things that you pick up on and learn that you're not aware of. Sometimes we just don't fit in when we go to places that are unfamiliar to us. Well, there's a real sense in which all of us who belong to Jesus Christ don't fit in here. It's because, in reality, we aren't from around here, and that's the theme that Paul picks up beginning in verse 27 of Philippians 1. In this last section of chapter 1 he addresses the reality that we're not from around here.

Let me remind you of where we've been so far in chapter 1. After a brief greeting in the first eleven verses, Paul began in chapter 1:12, all the way through verse 26, to explain about his current circumstances. Remember he finds himself in prison, in Rome, awaiting a verdict from the Roman seat of government as to whether he'll be executed because his faith is in conflict with the aims of the empire, or whether he will live and continue to minister. When we come to verse 27 however, Paul changes from his affairs to that of the Philippians and of us. As I noted for you a couple of weeks ago, the first part of chapter 1 is filled with first person nouns, pronouns, and verbs. "I" and "my" dominate. It's narrative basically, about Paul's life and experience.

But beginning with verse 27 of chapter 1 and running all the way through 2:18, Paul begins to speak to the Philippians in a string of imperatives: do this, don't do that, act like this, think like this, have this attitude. You see in this section, Paul puts on, as it were, his hat as an apostle of Jesus Christ, and he directly commands them and us about how we should think and how we should act. Let me read for you these four verses that end chapter 1. Philippians 1:27. He writes,

Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear … that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.

That is one, long, nearly impossible sentence in the Greek text. But the theme is easy to identify because the theme is found in the first two Greek words. The first is translated in our English Bibles as "only." It means "the one essential thing." Paul is saying, in light of all I've just told you, there's one thing I want you to keep in mind until I come. This essential thing is found in the second Greek word of verse 27, and this one Greek word is translated with five English words. In your English text there, notice the words "conduct yourselves in a manner." That is one Greek word. It's the main verb of the entire sentence, and it's Paul's one command. That's because it's a comprehensive command. It's a command that covers every aspect of our lives.

Let's take a look at this word that's translated "conduct yourselves in manner" because it's really the key to unlocking this whole text. The only other place in the New Testament this verb occurs is in Acts 23. Turn there briefly, and you can see the context. Acts 23:1. Paul is before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish council, and he says this to them. Verse 1 of chapter 23, "… Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day." The expression "I have lived my life" is a translation of the same Greek word translated "conduct yourselves in a manner" in Philippians 1. Now, the verb doesn't occur anywhere else in the New Testament, but a noun form of it does occur also in Philippians. Look at Philippians 3:20. "For our citizenship is in heaven." The word "citizenship" is a translation of the noun form of this verb. Both words, the noun and the verb, come from the Greek word "polis" which means "city."

Now let me remind you of a little bit of the history of Philippi. You remember when we talked, when we first started Philippians way back in November, I guess it was. You remember that Octavian, the Roman general, had declared Philippi to be a colony of Rome after he won a battle on the plains of Philippi. That meant that all the people who lived in Philippi enjoyed Roman citizenship. Paul is playing off of their civic pride, and he's reminding them that they have a dual citizenship. They are citizens of Philippi and Rome, and they are citizens of heaven at the same time.

The verb is often used in the Greek and Roman authors, though it's not anywhere else in the New Testament than here and Acts 23. It is often used in Greek and Roman authors where it means "to take an active part in the affairs of the polis" or the city. To take an active part in the affairs of the city, or to be a good citizen. What Paul literally says in Philippians 1:27 is: live like citizens worthy of the gospel of Christ. Paul wants the Christians there to live in the Roman colony in Philippi in a way that reflects well on their real homeland: heaven.

To really understand what Paul means by this verb, you have to go back to the Greek city-states. Now I know you're going to have to dust off your world history here in your minds a little bit, but you remember that in the Greek environment, the city-state was really more than a city, it was more like a small country. To the ancient Greek, to live as a citizen of a city-state was to participate in a kind of partnership. The goal of the city-state was for the individual to maximize his own gifts for the good of the community. So, interdependence and mutual care were very important in that context. In the Greek's mind, and later in the Roman's mind, to live as a citizen meant not merely that you had certain privileges and rights.

When we think of our citizenship as Americans, that's what we usually think of. I have certain rights. Our mind goes to the Bill of Rights. I have certain things that are my privileges as being an American. But when the Greek and the Romans thought of citizenship, they didn't think merely of their rights and privileges; instead, they thought as well of their duties and responsibilities.

When you and I are called citizens of heaven, that comes with wonderful privileges, but it also comes with serious duties and responsibilities as well. Notice how Paul finishes his thought in Philippians 1. "Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." What does he mean? Live as a citizen worthy of the Gospel of Christ. Well, that phrase defines the nature of the new city-state or country of which we're citizens. You see, what unites us into this new community is one thing: our belief in Christ and in His Good News in the Gospel. Through the Gospel we have become citizens of heaven. We have entered into partnership, into a spiritual fellowship. We have become members of a new community, a new country if you will. The Christian city-state is the church. This is our city-state, our city, our country, and we're to live worthy of it.

What does that mean, to live worthy? Well, Paul is going to spend the rest of this sentence identifying what that means. But what it means at the basic level is this. There is certain behavior that is characteristic of a true citizen of heaven, and there's other behavior that is absolutely unworthy and unbecoming anyone who says he belongs there. In fact, let me put it to you this way. If you are living in an unrepentant pattern of sin today, it may very well mean that you don't belong to heaven at all. This is a constant theme of the New Testament.

Turn to 1 Corinthians 6. First Corinthians 6:9, Paul writes, "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God?" [They don't have citizenship there. They're not part of the Kingdom of God.] … Don't be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate [that is effeminate by perversion,] nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers…. [And that's not all that's in the list, Paul's just giving us a sample.]

People who are in a pattern of living like that will not inherit the Kingdom of God. They don't have true citizenship. But look at the good news. Verse 11, "Such were some of you; but you were washed, … you were sanctified, … you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God." You see, if you belong to heaven, if you're a citizen there, then at the most basic level, your behavior will reflect that citizenship. And if it doesn't, then you probably aren't a citizen at all.

Paul continues. Notice in Philippians 1:27. He says I want this to be true of you, "So that whether I come and see you [which he fully expects to do, you remember 2:24, he says I plan to come] or [whether] I remain absent, I will hear of you." Now, how would Paul hear about the Philippians? Well, Paul intended to send Timothy as soon as he heard the verdict. Notice Philippians 2:23. "Therefore I hope to send … [Timothy] immediately, as soon as I see how things go with me;" So, Paul expected to send Timothy and hear back from Timothy that these things were true in Philippi. So, he's saying, whether I see it first hand, or whether I hear about it from Timothy, I want to hear that you are living in a way that is worthy of your heavenly homeland. As Christians, we should live like we belong to heaven.

With the privilege of citizenship comes responsibilities and duties. But what exactly are the responsibilities that we have as citizens of heaven? How can we live in a way that's worthy of the Gospel that we've come to enjoy? Well in the rest of this passage, Paul identifies for us four specific duties that come with the privilege of belonging to Christ in His Kingdom. Four very specific responsibilities that you and I have. We'll look at them today and the next time we come together to look at these passages.

The first of these four duties is found in verse 27. It's simply this. Stand for the truth, stand for the truth. Notice again, "Only conduct yourselves [or, only live as citizens] … worthy of the Gospel of Christ, so that … I will hear of you that you are standing firm." That you're standing firm. This word "standing firm" is used about 11 times in the New Testament. And when it's used figuratively (sometimes it's used of actually standing physically), but when it's used figuratively, it describes being absolutely resolute, immovable. In secular Greek, it's used to describe the courageous attitude of a soldier who will not leave his post no matter how hard the battle rages around him.

In the New Testament when this word is used figuratively, we're told to do some interesting things. We're told to stand firm in the faith, 1 Corinthians 16:13. We're told to stand firm in the truth of justification, Galatians 5:1. We're told to stand firm in the truth of the apostle's teaching whether by word or by letter in 2 Thessalonians 2:15. And finally, we're told to stand firm in the Lord, Philippians 4:1, and 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 8. So, when you look at the uses of this expression in the New Testament, the primary application of standing firm is this, it means to stand like a sentinel to protect and guard the truth.

Have you noticed in this election year how frequently politicians refer to the Constitution? Both politicians and the average person in our country, when they get into the national debate, often refer to the Constitution because it is the thing that we cherish as a country. It is the document that sets the course of our national life, and everyone tries to use it to defend their cause. It's shocking, it was shocking for me earlier this week to hear the mayor of San Francisco (who is absolutely defying the rule of law by declaring gay marriages, against the rule of law, to be valid and approving of them) to use the Constitution to defend what he's doing. Politicians on both sides of the isle take it as their greatest duty to defend the Constitution against the other side and against the problems that the other side creates, both real and perceived. And well they should; that is their duty.

As citizens of heaven, our constitution is found between the pages of this book. And it's our duty as citizens of heaven to know it, to believe it, to live it, to defend it, and to pass it along unsullied to the next generation. That's our responsibility. If we're going to live as citizens of heaven, if we're going to live worthy of our citizenship, then it's time you and I took this book seriously. Stand for the truth.

We live in a day when ideas are bantered about as if every person was the place and source of truth. I don't know how many of you saw this past week the discussion on Larry King Live about gay marriage. John MacArthur was on there. It's fascinating. I talked to him afterward. It's fascinating how he does as he should, always bring the issue back to what is the source of your authority? What is it that causes you to say that? You know, the mayor of San Francisco saying, well I just think this is the right thing. Well, who cares what you think? What is the source of your authority outside of yourself? And for us as Christians it's the truth, but for everyone in our culture it's whatever they think. You and I have to stand up for the truth. Don't be afraid to speak up. Do it graciously, do it kindly, do it compassionately, but don't let the truth lie there trampled by false ideas.

How do we stand for the truth? What are some practical ways you and I can stand up for the truth in our culture? Well, it starts by just simply knowing the truth. Proverbs 23:23, uses a beautiful poetic expression. It says this. "Buy [the] truth, and do not sell it." In other words, do whatever you have to do to get the truth, and then don't let go of it. Come to know it. Folks, you and I, if we're going to stand for the truth, we have to start by knowing what it is, and that is only found here in God's Word.

You want to stand up for the truth? You want to act like a citizen of heaven? Then start by knowing what's in this book. Coming here on Sundays is a good start, but that's not where it ends. It means you devote yourself throughout the week to learning what's on the pages of this book. You devote yourself to reading it, to studying it, to reading books about it. It should be your hobby, can I say, but in a sanctified sense? It should be the thing that preoccupies you. It takes your time when other things aren't demanding you. Know the truth.

A second way you can stand for the truth, it starts by knowing it, but then secondly, obey the truth you know. Luke 8:15, is in the parable of the soils; talks about the human hearts, and three of the soils you'll remember are not truly Christian hearts. Oh, two of them sort of receive the Word as if it's the real thing, but then they fade away because they're not genuine. Their profession of Christ isn't real. But the fourth soil is called the good soil. Listen to how Christ describes it. "The seed in the good soil, [that's the Gospel; the Word finds the good soil, the human heart that is prepared,] these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance." The reflection of the reality of your faith is shown by how you pursue obedience to what you learn. Do you do what you know? Obey the truth. Know the truth, obey the truth.

Thirdly, defend the truth from attacks of error. Speak up. This is exactly what Paul tells timid Timothy to do. Timothy struggled with timidity. He struggled with being ashamed of the Gospel. Paul tells him don't be ashamed of me, of the Lord's prisoner, or of the Lord Himself. Timothy was prone as some of us are not to speak up, and so Paul urges him to do that, but then notice what he tells him in 2 Timothy 1:14. He says, "Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you."

What's the treasure? Well notice the verse before, verse 13. "… the standard of sound words which you have heard from me…." In other words, it's sound doctrine, it's sound teaching, it's the truth about God, the truth about Christ, the truth about the Bible, the truth about salvation. He says guard it. It's a precious treasure. Defend it. Do you speak up for the truth when it's being trampled on by error? Defend it.

Know the truth, obey the truth, defend it, and then teach it to someone else. Notice 2 Timothy 2:2. "The things which you have heard from me [Paul says] in the presence of many witness…." What is that? Well it refers back to that treasure, the standard of sound words, verse 13 of chapter 1, the Word of God, the truth, true doctrine. "Entrust … to faithful men." The word "entrust" is an interesting Greek word. It literally means "to set as food before." It's often used in the New Testament of just that, setting food before someone. He's saying, take the things you've learned from me and spread a table before someone else, before faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Listen, there isn't a single person in this room who's reached a certain level of maturity in Christ who can't take what you know and pour it into another life. That's what you need to do. If you're going to be a citizen of heaven, if you're going to stand for the truth, then you need not only to know the truth, to obey the truth, to defend the truth, but you need to pass it on so that it doesn't get lost from generation to generation.

When Paul came to the end of his life, this is the thing in which he found comfort, that he'd done just that. You remember those famous words in 2 Timothy 4:6-7? Where he says, "The time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;" I have guarded the content of the Faith, what we believe. I've guarded it, I've protected it, I've defended it, and I've passed it on. Listen, your relationship to the Word of God will tell a lot about whether you're a citizen of heaven or not. If you regularly neglect God's Word, if the only time you find yourself in its pages or its words in your mind is here every Sunday morning, then you better check your I.D. It's very possible that you're not a citizen of heaven at all. You may be here in the church on a tourist visa or as an illegal alien, and you may not be a resident of heaven because true citizens of heaven stand for the truth.

That brings us to the second duty that we have to live worthy of our citizenship. Not only stand for the truth, but secondly, seek for unity. Notice verse 27 again. "Only … [live as citizens] in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that … I will hear … that you are standing firm [but notice how] in one spirit with one mind." Some commentators have seen in the phrase "one spirit" a reference to the Holy Spirit, but I think it's best here to take it in the same sense as in 1 Corinthians 6:17. "The one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him." You see the word "spirit" can refer to "disposition." It means that we're to have one common disposition, one attitude, one common mind, a community spirit. It speaks of having the same mindset towards something. And then he adds, "with one mind." Literally translated, that's "one souled," of one soul. This phrase occurs frequently in the New Testament to describe a oneness or unity in the church. You see it especially in the early days of the church: in Acts 2:46; in Acts 4:32. We won't turn there, but you can look at those later, this spirit of unity.

Now, Paul is going to have much more to say about this, and therefore, so will I in the coming weeks. Because when we get to chapter 2, he's going to deal with the issue of unity at length. And when we get there, we'll explain it and deal with it in detail. But as we see it today in this passage, let me just give you two warnings about Christian unity. There are dangers at both extremes.

First of all, there's the danger, when we talk about Christian unity, of ignoring error and false teaching. You've seen it. There are many today in our culture that teach and embrace error, and then they turn around and criticize those who point out their error and call them unloving and critical. And they call instead for this sort of artificial unity based on the fact that, "Well, we all believe in Jesus." Well, we may, or we may not. We don't know what you believe about Jesus. What is it you believe about Him? You see, the ultimate basis for unity is the Spirit of God. You see that in Philippians 2:1. Notice the "fellowship of the spirit?" You see it also in 1 Corinthians 12. Turn there for a moment. First Corinthians 12:13, Paul is talking about Spiritual gifts. He's introducing the concept to the church (this concept that had divided the Corinthian church), and he says to them in 1 Corinthians 12:13, "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit." The source of our unity is the Spirit of God.

Ephesians 4 makes this same point as he deals with the issue of the church and unity in the Spirit. He says in verse 3 of Ephesians 4, "Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." What's the basis of that? Verse 4, "There is one body and one Spirit." You see, the basis of our unity with others is the Spirit of God. And guess what? The Spirit is about truth. You remember when Christ, that night before His crucifixion was talking to the disciples, and He promised them the Spirit would come? You remember what He said? He said the Spirit will come, and He will guide you into what? All truth. The Spirit is about truth. So, true Biblical unity is based on commonly held doctrine and beliefs. Not on some experiential "well, we all love Jesus."

But there's a second danger of Biblical unity or Christian unity, and it's on the other extreme. One extreme is accepting everything and being unified with everything. The other extreme is turning our guns on other Christians, on other committed Christians. You see, there's a tendency I'm told, for men who have been in battle, once the war is over to continue to battle with their families or with their spouses. War just does that to you. If I could make a personal application at this point to many of you. Before I came, many of you in this church were engaged in a true spiritual battle for right and for integrity, but now the war is over, and it's important that we continue to maintain the right perspective toward each other, toward our brothers our brothers and sisters who are here. They are not our antagonists. They are our partners. We are engaging in battle together for the advance of the Gospel.

Yes, it's true, we're all different. We all have different gifts. We each have our own eccentricities, at least all of you do. We have different ideas, different perspectives about many different things, but just as fellow soldiers often have those differences and yet stand united, so are we. We are in reality a band of brothers, and that's how we're to behave. You want to live like you belong to heaven? Then stand for the truth. But once you've stood for the truth, unite with others who stand for that truth. Seek for unity.

So, the duties that come with the privilege of citizenship in heaven are stand for the truth, number one. Number two, seek for unity, and thirdly, strive for the Gospel. Strive for the Gospel. Notice verse 27 again of Philippians 1. "Only … [live as citizens] worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that … I will hear … that you are … striving together for the faith of the gospel." "Striving together," that's an interesting word. It translates one Greek word. It's the word that our word "athletics" comes from. It literally means "to engage in an athletic competition with." The same word occurs over in 4:3, where we learn about Euodia and Syntyche, who are now divided, but notice verse 3, they once "shared my struggle," same Greek word. You see, this is talking about engaging in an athletic competition, not as competitors, but side by side.

Now, I enjoy professional sports as many of you do, but today in professional sports if you lose a game nothing dramatic happens. I mean you go take a shower, you take your million-dollar paycheck, and you get in your expensive car, and you drive to your expensive home, and you prop your feet up in front of the fire, and you watch a recording of your loss. That's about as dramatic as it gets, but in the world of the first century, the stakes in this kind of contest were often much higher. If you lost, often it meant your opponent killed you. It wasn't a game. It was a battle.

I've had the opportunity as have some of you to visit the Colosseum in Rome, the ruins of the Colosseum. Some of the literature that I picked up there describes an event that the Emperor Trajan held which included ten thousand gladiators and eleven thousand animals in one extended bloody spectacle, and at least half of both lost their lives. So, while this word speaks of athletic competition, it's not referring to a friendly game of pick-up football. It's referring to a life and death struggle for survival, and when you're in that kind of battle, listen to me folks, when you're in that kind of battle, your team mates become very important. The picture is of working as a team side by side, struggling not as individuals but together as one person with one mind for one goal, and Paul says he wants us to stand side by side taking the offensive.

Notice what he says in verse 27. "For the faith of the gospel." What does that mean. By "faith of the gospel" Paul means the faith which is based on the Gospel. He means that the Good News that God has acted in Christ to secure man's salvation is the source and origin of everything we believe, the body of Christian doctrine that we believe. The Gospel is at the foundation, and if we're going to live worthy of our citizenship in heaven, we must learn to fight for the advance of the Gospel alongside each other, remembering that something more important than our lives is at stake. What's at stake is the Good News of the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. Paul wants to hear that you and I are fighting side by side to advance the Good News.

Are you beginning to see how important it is that you and I speak up with the Good News of Jesus Christ? Paul just keeps hammering it in this first chapter. He keeps coming back to this theme. Let me just reduce it to the simplest form. It comes down to this. If we aren't doing what we can to get others to embrace the Gospel, then we are living in sin. God has left us in this world to accomplish the one thing that we can't do better in heaven. Have you ever thought about that? Everything else that you and I as Christians do, we'll do better in heaven. Our worship will be better, our fellowship will be sweeter. Everything we do as Christians will be better in heaven except one thing, and that is the communication of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to lost sinners. And that's why we're here. That's why we have this new community. That's why we're citizens. It's to get others to join us and become citizens as well. It's to share the Good News that God, who is our King, has reconciled Himself to those who were rebels against him. That's why we live.

Now let me ask you, what are some practical ways that we can battle together for the Gospel? Let me just share a couple of ideas with you. I don't want to leave it in sort of the vague and nebulous. Let me give you some practical ideas. You want to get on board with striving together for the advance of the Gospel? Here are a few ideas. Start by just letting others around you know that you're a Christian. Do your co-workers know that you profess Jesus Christ? Do people at school know that you're in Christ? Do your family members who aren't saved, do they know that you profess to be a Christian? Do they know it's important to you? Start by just opening your mouth and letting them know that you're different, that your citizenship isn't here, that you are a follower of Jesus Christ. Use those words. I'm a disciple of Jesus Christ. And then live like it.

Secondly, talk to your unsaved friends, family, and co-workers about the Lord just as you would here in a Christian context. In other words, don't have two different vocabularies, one for church and one for the office ond one for school. If you're grateful for the fact that God has accomplished something in your life, say even to your unchristian friends, I'm grateful that God has done this in my life. Just speak to them as if Christ were a normal part of your life because He is. He's supposed to be. So, just talk normally like you would here. Don't put on a different set of lingo when you're with others who aren't in Christ.

Thirdly, invite them to our church. Get them under the sound of the truth. Give them a Christian book that's meant a lot to you and encourage them to read it. Write a letter, and share your faith. Sometimes with family members, particularly with parents and others that you're real close to, this is a very good way to communicate the truth of the Gospel. Do it compassionately, do it graciously, do it like you really care for them instead of just some sort of a recitation of a bunch of passages of Scripture, but communicate your care for their soul. Invite your neighbors to dinner with the specific purpose of building a bridge over which you can take the Gospel. I hope that sometime this year as a church we'll begin to offer an evangelism training course to equip you to share the Gospel in an intelligent and meaningful way.

But regardless, however we choose to do it, we must start striving together for the Gospel. You know, let's be honest folks, we rightly criticize seeker-sensitive churches for their flawed theology and their pragmatic approach to evangelism, but how active are we at pursuing sinners with the truth? You know what my prayer is for this church? And it has been since I arrived. And that is God, make us an evangelistic church. Make us not only a church that cares about growing as believers (that's important, that's why we gather), but help us to scatter with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Help us to be a church where's there's new life, where there are people coming to faith in Jesus Christ. Don't let us become ingrown. Don't let us become a place, as they say, "the gene pool needs a little chlorine."

By "striving together for the faith of the gospel," Paul means not only that we need to proclaim the message, but also that we need to defend the Gospel against those who would attack it. And when we get to Philippians 3, he's going to show us how to do that because there were some people in Philippi who were threatening the Gospel. So, when he says we're going to strive together for the advance of the Gospel, not only is it proclaiming it, but it's also defending it. We must speak up when the Gospel of justification by faith alone through Christ is assaulted. The bottom line is, true citizens of heaven strive together for the Gospel. But if you want to live like someone who is a citizen of heaven, if you want to reflect well on your homeland, then stand for the truth, seek for unity, strive for the Gospel. And next time we'll consider Paul's final point in verses 28-30.

If you travel at all internationally, it doesn't take long to observe that Americans often make terrible tourists. It gives our country a very bad name abroad. You know, there's the proverbial loud, camera-laden tourist, loud mouthed in his Bermuda shorts and Budweiser t-shirt making demands of the locals. And when they don't speak English, and I've seen this first hand as many of you have, when they don't speak English, he just gets louder, imagining that his volume will somehow make up for the lack of comprehension in his hearer. But perhaps the worst case of this disease I ever saw was one time when I was in Israel.

One of my joyous responsibilities and duties when I was at Grace to You was arranging the trips, the annual trips that Grace to You would sponsor. The first time we went to Israel was a lot of fun. We had over 400 people, nine buses, and so it was a logistical challenge, but it worked beautifully, and everyone enjoyed the trip. We had wonderful group sessions in places like the amphitheater at Caesarea overlooking the Mediterranean. We also went to Turkey, and we met in Ephesus at the theater where they shouted for hours "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!" We met there and the Gospel rang out through that place. It was a wonderful trip, but we arranged at night for the individual buses to go and take a night tour, a night walking tour of the old city of Jerusalem. I don't know if you've ever been there, but if you haven't, I can tell you that it's a magnificent sight to see the lights reflecting off of those golden stones, many of which are thousands of years old. And it was just a wonderful event.

And Sheila and I, with the bus that we were on, we'd finished the tour, and we were walking back to the bus. We'd encouraged everyone, because it was a walking tour, to wear walking shoes. Well, this one lady in our group had decided this was the night she was going to choose to dress up a little bit, and she had worn heels. And so, she had stumbled through the old city of Jerusalem all night. And we got nearly back to the bus, and on these stones that were worn smooth with centuries of use, some cases millennia of use, she slipped, and she fell. I'll never forget the embarrassing comment that her companion made to one of the guides, the Israeli tour guide that was there. As she picked her up off of the stones, she looked at this Israeli guide and she said, "The next time they build this city, they need to do a better job." I was so embarrassed. I was embarrassed for her, I was embarrassed for me, for our group, for America generally.

Listen folks, we're not from around here. This isn't really our home. Our citizenship is in heaven, but how we live and conduct ourselves here reflects on our true homeland, heaven. Live like you belong to heaven.

Let's pray together. Father, thank you for Your truth. Thank You for the challenge from Your Word.

Lord, I pray for those who might be here this morning who have been a part of this church, maybe for years, who've sat under the sound of Your Word all their lives, and yet they really aren't citizens of heaven. They're illegal aliens who've connected themselves to this community. Lord, I pray that You would help them to see that they're not in Christ and bring them to faith in Christ even today.

And Lord for the rest of us who know You and love Your Son, I pray that You would help us to be committed to living like citizens of our true homeland, heaven. Lord, help us to stand for the truth in a culture that knows no truth. Lord, help us to strive and seek for unity among each other. And Lord, I pray that You would help us to strive together to advance the Gospel. Help us to live our lives for the one thing that You've left us here to do, the only thing that we can't do better in Your presence.

I pray in Jesus name, Amen.