The Apostle Paul was writing to the Church of Philippi from a Roman prison…a deep, dark, dank place filled with hopelessness and misery, yet he was exhorting his fellow Believers to live a life worthy of the Gospel…worthy of the calling they had received. Jude 3 calls it contending for the faith. Of taking the truth of the Gospel Message we’ve received and studying it, learning from it, believing in it, and finally, defending it. When we conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel we are fulfilling our duty to stand firm against those who may attempt to alter/ or change the grace of God into some man-made Religion. For the next verse goes on to say, “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.” Philippians 1:28)
A man of folk-lore and legend in the Midwest is John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed. During the 1800’s he wandered the country-side of large parts of Pennsylvania, Ontario, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and West Virginia planting apple orchards…some of which still stand today. This American pioneer nurseryman spent his lifetime scattering seed in hopes of a harvest someday. In these verses, Jesus is likening the kingdom of God to the mystery of germination and growth and what man’s responsibility is in it all. We are told to plant or scatter seed…the Good News of the Gospel Message, and then to allow God to do the rest. For God’s kingdom grows in His time, in His way…always moving forward. So just like Johnny Appleseed, we are to be sowers of hope and leave the progress up to God.
In this verse the Lord lays out very clearly what’s our responsibility and what’s His. For starters, this relationship can’t happen until we have that “coming to Jesus moment”, a time when we finally stop, admit our sinfulness, repent, and turn back to Him. He says that at that moment He will restore, renew, and revive our old self into a new one that is worthy of carrying His Message to others. But there is also a warning in this verse, a caution to not allow compromise to creep into our message – however enticing it is – to merely win the approval of man. As Zechariah 3:7 tells us, we are to continually walk in His ways and keep His requirements…not what we think others want to hear.
Paul used the word gospel twice in this verse but both had very different meanings. The first meant the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ…that by way of His death, burial, and resurrection, we might have eternal life. The second gospel could not have been farther from that truth. It was distinctly different and deceptive and was leading the Church of Galatia astray. In II Corinthians 11:13-15, Paul called these teachers, “false apostles and servants of Satan masquerading as apostles of Christ.” They came proclaiming a ‘new and improved’ Gospel Message that was categorically incorrect and flawed, but the people were accepting it. Paul here was charging them to be vigilant and discerning…for if the message did not proclaim justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone…it was a false gospel.
The foundation of Christian faith is this, “We believe that Jesus died and rose again…” (I Thessalonians 4:14) But stop and think about this for a minute. How absurd does this really sound? You actually believe that Jesus was crucified, died on a cross, was buried…but 3 days later rose from that grave alive? How delusional can you be? And if you do truly believe this “fairy-tale”, you must be living in a fantasy-world! But this is exactly how the world views the Gospel Message…some far-fetched implausible story. Except, within this story is something that all of mankind is constantly searching for… peace, hope, and freedom from guilt and shame. For the resurrection of Christ is the basis of our hope as Believers, and it is only by our faith that we are set free from the penalty of sin and death.
The chasm between God and man was too wide, so He sent His only Son to atone for our sins… in order that we may be reconciled. And so , “We rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:11) But there’s also responsibility attached to this reconciliation, for II Corinthians 5:18 tells us, “All this is from God, Who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” So as Believers, we are called to serve others with compassion, and share with them a message of hope – The Good News of the Gospel- that they too may repent and believe…and be reconciled.
What do you listen to? Is it positive, God-centered things…or does secular music and movies have your attention right now? This verse stresses that we need to guard what we have heard, ( God’s Word / the Gospel Message) and keep that in front of us when we are tempted to fall back into sin. And the Lord is good to bring into remembrance all we’ve heard about Him when we are weak, disheartened, or enticed by the world. For He can fill our mind with truth and drown out Satan’s whispers.
So what stops you from sharing Jesus with others? Awkwardness? Apprehension? Do you realize that even the early Church had reservations about telling others the Good News of the Gospel…for in Acts 4:29 the Believers prayed, “Enable Your servants to speak Your Word with great boldness.” So I pray for you today that the Holy Spirit would give you the words to speak to that unbelieving friend, stranger, or relative. And that you would speak with confidence, boldness, and articulation as you share the Gospel Message with them.
God’s love was revealed in Christ Jesus who came to set us free and break off the chains of sin that bound us so tightly. This sacrificial shedding of Christ’s blood was necessary to atone for our sins and is the only way we can come back into a right relationship with God the Father. For you see, true freedom can only be found in Jesus.
What was John telling the Church in Sardis they needed to remember? It was the Gospel Message…the Good News of Jesus. We should never discount or dismiss the wonder-working power of the Gospel. For within its message is the Holy Spirit at work in hearts and minds. And when we hear and receive the Good News, it’s then our responsibility to obey and repent. For true repentance is a moral reorientation of our soul…a acknowledging of the error of our ways and a turning towards truth and righteousness…of turning to God.