November 24, 2019
When I was in college, my major was Christian leadership. I’ve mentioned this before. I really like the “Christian” part; I did not like the “leadership” part. Even in seminary, I was required to take some leadership classes.
For the leadership part of my degree, I had to take classes like “Leadership Methods,” “Church Management,” “Educational Processes.” The books that we had to read for these classes were authored by people like Bill Hybels, John Maxwell, and George Barna. The “church growth” movement was the philosophy of ministry that I interacted with through these leadership classes. One idea behind this approach to ministry is that you must make your church attractive to people so that they can come in and feel welcome.
In reading all this material, I just wasn’t attracted to it. I just didn’t like it. I didn’t gravitate towards it. For some time, though, I didn’t know why. I knew I didn’t like it, but I wasn’t sure my reasons for why I didn’t like it. I’m sure many of you have been in a similar situation. You hear something that you don’t think is right but you’re not sure exactly why you think it’s wrong. For quite some time, I just didn’t know why.
That changed when I read a book on leadership by Albert Mohler. The name of the book is called The Conviction to Lead. It’s a wonderful book. If you’re looking for a book on Christian leadership, that is my top recommendation. In the book, Mohler argues that current approaches to leadership do not emphasize the most basic and fundamental aspect of leadership—conviction. Conviction, Mohler argues, is the most important aspect of leadership. Leadership is not first and foremost about methods, procedures, and styles. It’s first and foremost about convictions. It’s about belief. It’s about truth.
Listen to what he says:
When a leader walks into the room, a passion to truth had better enter with him. Authentic leadership does not emerge out of a vacuum. The leadership that matters most is convictional—deeply convictional. This quality of leadership springs from those foundational beliefs that shape who we are and establish our beliefs about everything else. Convictions are not merely beliefs we hold; they are those beliefs that hold us in their grip. We would not know who we are but for these bedrock beliefs, and without them we would not know how to lead.
This paragraph changed my life. This is gold. If you want to know my approach to leadership, it’s that.
Deep, bedrock convictions are not just important for me, though. They’re not just important for this notion of leadership. Bedrock convictions are important for Christians, for us at CBC, for you as an individual Christian. They’re important for the high school student who experiences peer-pressure to make a sinful choice. They’re important for the single person who experiences the temptation towards pre-marital sex. They’re important for the mother who consistently prays for her children but sees no results. They’re important for the farmer who’s harvest has not produced what it is he expected. They’re important for the person who is battling terminal cancer. No matter who you are, you must live with convictions. Convictions matter.
Paul had convictions. Paul had deep convictions. You can’t be the person that Paul was and not have strong, abiding convictions. Paul’s convictions led him to go to the distant parts of the world to preach the gospel. Paul’s convictions led him to suffer faithfully in prison. Paul’s convictions led him to writing the book of Philippians.
In our passage this morning, we will see Paul allude to these convictions of his. Please go ahead and turn with me to our passage, Phil 1:19. We will cover vv. 19 and 20 for our sermon this morning. The passage reads thus,
For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.
In this passage, Paul evidences three convictions. These three convictions will be the focus of our study this morning. Those convictions are hope, peace, and faithfulness. Those will be our three points this morning. Let us begin with hope.
What is hope? Hope is not fanciful thinking. It’s not wishful thinking. We live in age in which secularism is very popular. In our age, especially among millennials, there is this desire for hope but it’s nothing more than wishful thinking. You see this when you hear people say, “Everything happens for a reason.” Embedded in this confession is the idea of hope. This statement is usually said within the context of some difficulty. The hope that there is some meaning, some deeper truth than difficulty that is experienced. There is a hope that something good will come out of the bad.
However, this statement is nothing more than fanciful thinking. It’s hollow. It’s empty. It’s hollow because it doesn’t identify the reason. It is true that everything happens for a reason. That’s true. But we must identify that reason if we are to have hope. Without any mention of the reason—specifically a reason that is based upon the goodness and love of God—this statement is nothing more than wishful thinking. This isn’t hope.
Hope is different than wishful thinking. Hope is not hollow. Hope is not empty. Hope is sure. It’s set. It’s firm and unshakable. You can bet your whole life on it. It is not vague and undefined. Hope is set on Christ. It’s set on his life, death, and resurrection. The tomb is empty, amen? Jesus is not dead. He is alive. This proves that God is good. This proves that God’s plan will be accomplished. This proves that no matter what happens to me or you, God is good. He will be faithful. He will accomplish his purposes in me and this world. That is hope. Hope is the conviction, the knowledge that God is good, that he will accomplish what he said he would, that he will be good to me. That is hope.
Let’s look at v. 19 and the beginning part of v. 20. Paul says,
for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope
This is where we see Paul discuss his hope. Paul’s hope is his conviction, his knowledge that he will be delivered from his current situation. His conviction of hope is that although he is currently imprisoned, although he is in chains, that he will be delivered from his current plight. The “for” at the beginning of v. 19 indicates that Paul’s basis of joy, the reason why he can have joy, is because he has hope. Verse 19 provides the reason for why Paul has joy. Paul has joy, specified at the end of v. 18, because Paul has hope, specified in vv. 19 and the beginning of v. 20.
The tricky exegetical question we must ask is what does Paul mean by “deliverance” in v. 19? This is a difficult word to understand. I take it that what Paul is saying here is that Paul believes that regardless of what happens to him, whether he is imprisoned or not, that Jesus will ultimately deliver him from his plight and save him from his sin and from those who hate him. Paul is referring to final salvation here. Paul is convinced that at the end of time Jesus will save Paul from every force that seeks to harm Paul.
This salvation, Paul states, will come through “your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” This is a very interesting phrase. While not very apparent in the English, the Greek rendering of this phrase suggests a very close relationship between the prayers of the Philippians and the help of the Holy Spirit. We might render this phrase like this:
the supply/help of the Spirit is the answer to your prayers.
Paul is saying that his salvation will be achieved by the Spirit’s presence of which is the answer to their prayers. Here we have a close interplay between human action and divine action. God accomplishes his purposes—the strengthening of Paul by the Spirit—through the prayer of the Philippians. Amazing.
Paul then has this little phrase at the beginning of v. 20. He says, “as it is my eager expectation and hope.” Conceptually, I take that what Paul says in v. 19 is his “eager expectation and hope.” There you have the word “hope.” Paul has this hope. And his hope is that he knows Christ will deliver him. Paul has this bedrock conviction that regardless of what happens to him—whether life or death—Christ will be faithful to him. Through the prayers of the Philippians, the Spirit will supply with what he needs to be saved from his current circumstances.
Paul was in prison for preaching the gospel. My goodness. He was in prison for doing the right thing, the best thing, preaching the gospel. Yet, he’s punished. That’s awful. What was his response, though? Is it self-pity or complaining? No. Was it a questioning of God’s sovereign plan? “Where are you, God” type of thing? No. It was hope.
What’s all this mean for us? Taking our cue from Paul here. We must have this conviction of hope. Life is hard. Discouragement all around us. Death, disease, sickness, division. We must have hope. No matter what this life brings, no matter the difficulty, we have the hope that Christ will deliver us from our difficulties. He’s alive. He hears us. He’s here. We have his word that he will be faithful to us. We always have that. Nothing can take that away. Have hope this morning, dear Christian.
The second point is peace. The second conviction that Paul has is peace. What is peace? Peace is not one’s own ease with one’s self. In Dallas, Kathryn and I had this specific gym we attended. It was a very nice gym. As a DTS student, I got a big discount so KT and could go there. During the most recent Valentine’s Day, they had this sign at the entrance to the gym. I don’t remember exactly what it said but it said something like “you have to love yourself.” Remember it was Valentine’s Day so it was not uncommon for signs or advertisements to talk about love. “You have to love yourself.” The undertones behind all this are self-acceptance. At the gym, people struggle with how they look. They might want to lose some weight to improve their self-image.
That type of idea. To love yourself in this context is to accept yourself. Love who you are. Accept yourself. Have peace with who you are.
This is not what peace is. This is not what the Bible teaches. It’s not about accepting yourself for who you are or loving yourself. That’s not what peace is. That type of thinking does not show up in the Bible. As we will see from Paul, peace is current knowledge that at the future judgment you will be accepted by God. Peace in this passage is future oriented. It’s the present awareness of a future reality. It’s the present personal satisfaction that comes from the conscience that at the future judgment you will be deemed forgiven by God based upon his grace and mercy.
Where do we see this in Paul? Look at the middle of v. 20. He has this phrase,
I will not be at all ashamed.
A point of observation in order to understand what Paul is saying. Notice the tense of this verb. It’s future. Paul is not talking about not being ashamed right now, from the time point of him writing these words. He’s talking about some future event. He’s talking about future judgment. I’ve referenced this several times.
There is coming a time of judgment for all people. When we die, we will be judged. We will be held accountable. For Paul to say that he will not be ashamed is for Paul to say that he will not be damned. He will not be eternally cursed by God. He will not be eternally shamed. To understand this better, turn with me to Dan 12:1. I will read through verse 2. The passage reads,
At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
Notice in this passage how it talks about eternal damnation. Those who are condemned at the end of time “shall awake to shame and everlasting contempt.” To be shamed here is to be shamed by God. It is to be told that one’s life is was worthless in God’s eyes and it will therefore be condemned for all eternity.
This is Paul’s background. For Paul to have the current conviction that he will not be ashamed at the end of time is for Paul to have peace that his life is acceptable to God. Regardless of how the Romans think of him, Paul has the conviction that he will not be put to shame on the final day. Paul doesn’t care about what people think. Rather, he has the peace of knowing that God will deem him righteous.
There is a coming judgment. There is a time of coming accountability. We will all stand before God and either be shamed or unashamed. What does your conscience say to you this morning, dear friend? Does God approve of your actions, your thoughts, and your deeds? Does your conscience speak peacefully to you? Or, does it accuse you? One of my favorite professors in college used to say, “The softest pillow at night is a clean conscience?” You can say that again. Do you have peace, dear friend?
We must fight for peace in this life. We must fight for this conviction that we will not be ashamed for anything in the future. How do we do this? Listen what Paul says in Acts 24:16. In this context, Luke records what Paul said before the Roman authorities:
So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.
This word here for “take pains” means to exert one’s self so fervently that it hurts. This verb makes sense within the context of exercising. A good exercise session is when you work so hard it burns. God wants us to do that with our conscience. We are to exert ourselves so greatly in seeking to have a clean conscience that it hurts. That’s what God wants us to do.
The last conviction we have to have as Christians is faithfulness. As I have with the other convictions, so also I will first start be describing what faithfulness is not. Faithfulness is not fair-weather Christianity. Faithfulness is not just following Christ when it’s easy, convenient, or cool. Faithfulness is not just loving your brothers and sisters in Christ when their nice and pleasant to you. Faithfulness is not just loving your family when it’s convenient for you. Faithfulness is not fickle. It’s not moody. It doesn’t change when life gets hard. Faithfulness is perseverance through difficulty. Faithfulness is doing the right thing even when it is hard. Faithfulness is obedience even if we must abandon comforts, desires, and pleasures. To be faithful is to say to God: “Not my will but your will be done.” Faithfulness is to say to others that no matter what life holds, no matter what difficulties come my way, I will honor Christ. My life is his and I have no other choice. That is faithfulness.
Look with me at Phil 1:20. Paul says this in the second part of the verse:
But that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.
Paul says he will not be ashamed. He will have peace with God. Also, he says here, that regardless of what happens—whether his imprisonment results in either life or death—he is committed to honor Christ with his body, his life.
The main idea here centers on this verb “will be honored.” What Paul is saying here is that whatever happens Christ will be greatly honored, magnified in his body. That really is the goal of the Christian life—to honor God in and with our bodies.
Paul wants to honor Christ, “whether by life or whether by death.” Whether Paul can continue living or if he has his head cut off (which happens at the end of Paul’s life), Christ will be honored in his body. When does this begin? When will Paul begin to do this honoring of Christ in his body? “Now as always.” Paul’s commitment to Christ is the same in prison (“now”) as it always has been. Paul’s faithfulness doesn’t change, even though his circumstances do.
And also Paul is committed to honoring Christ “with full courage.” See that little prepositional phrase? Paul is telling us how Christ will be honored in Paul’s body. He will be magnified greatly with Paul’s full courage. This courage refers to the idea that Paul will not cower to proclaim Christ’s truth. He is committed to speak the truth concerning the gospel. He will die for that. Paul will speak the truth even if it demands his life. He will not cower. He will not stop. Christ will be glorified in his body through Paul’s courage to proclaim Christ.
What a powerful message. What an amazing example. My question to you this morning is this: Where are the Christians who will say this morning with Paul that regardless of what happens in this life that they will honor Christ? We are you, Christian? Will you say this morning, will you commit yourself, Christian, to saying this with Paul?
We must do away with fair-weather Christianity. We must do away with Christianity that centers upon what it is that I get out of it, what it is that serves my interests. Christianity is costly, dear friend. It could cost you your very own life. This isn’t just conjecture, either. Thousands, maybe millions, of Christians have given their lives for Jesus. Is that worth it to you this morning? I have a special word for those who are struggling through some trial. Maybe it’s health related, family related, friend related. I’m not sure. It doesn’t matter. You are in very similar place that Paul was in. Paul was in prison. He was imprisoned for the gospel. He had every reason to say, “You know what? This Christianity stuff? I’m done with it.” He doesn’t say that. He says the
It’s almost like the prison made Paul more hardened to his commitment to the gospel. The prison was intended by the Romans to make Paul stop preaching. What happens, though? He goes in the prison and becomes more committed to the gospel. What was intended to pull away from the gospel drew him closer to it.
If your in a trial, become stubborn in your commitment to Christ. Become hardened in that. Rather than saying, “I’m done,” instead say, “You know what, I’m going deeper.” I don’t care about my life. All I care about is Christ. He is worth it. This life is nothing. I sacrifice everything, God, for you. Take my life if you want to. It’s yours. Regardless of what I must go through in this life, I am committed to you Lord. My life is yours, God. Take it and use it as you see fit. Be glorified Christ. Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.
I love Christian history. I love reading stories of how ancient Christians demonstrated Christian convictions. One of my favorite stories is called The Martyrdom of Polycarp. Polycarp was an important figure in the early church. He was a disciple of the apostle John. He died in the early second century as an old man. Polycarp was burned to death because of his Christian faith. Prior to his execution, it is recorded that there was a brief dialogue between the Roman authorities. This is how some of the dialogue went.
Roman Authorities: Have respect for your age. Revile Christ and swear an oath to Caesar. I will release you.
Polycarp: For 86 years I have been his servant, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?
Authorities: “I will have you consumed by fire.”
Polycarp: You threaten with a fire that burns only briefly and after just a little while is extinguished, for you are ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and eternal punishment, which is reserved for the ungodly. By why do you delay? Come, do what you wish.”
As he spoke these and many other words, he was inspired with courage and joy, and his face was filled with grace, so that not only did he not collapse in fright at the things that were said to him, but on the contrary the Roman rulers were astonished.
Polycarp: He then prays. “O Lord God Almighty, Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, I bless you because you have considered me worthy of this day and hour so that I might receive a place among the number of the martyrs, to the resurrection of eternal life in the Holy Spirit. I praise you, I bless you, I glorify you, through the eternal and heavenly high pirest, Jesus Christ, through whom be glory to you, with him and the Holy Spirit, both now and forever more. Amen.”
Polycarp is then killed by the authorities.
This is the type of conviction, the type of faithfulness God wants for us. The type that considers obedience as most important, even through difficulty and trial.
Pray with me.