Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel. Philippians 1:27
This past week, our church hosted our biennial missions conference. We had a dozen missionaries join us to share what God is doing around the world. It was such an honor to listen to men and women share about the unique ministry opportunities God has given to them for sharing the good news of Jesus. One of the things that struck me was the passion each missionary exhibited for the people to whom they were ministering. Their love for God overflowed into genuine and radical love for people.
I felt humbled and honored that our church gets to strive together with them for the sake of the gospel. That’s exactly what Paul is saying in our fighter verse this week. The only way to accomplish our mission of advancing the gospel is by doing it together – “side by side.” This striving takes work. That’s why Paul exhorts us to let our manner of life be worthy of the gospel. How we treat each other and speak to each other must be in line with the gospel in order for us to strive together.
One of the dangers that Dr. O’Neill mentioned in his sermon on Sunday was that if we don’t focus our collective effort against our true enemy, Satan, we will inevitably attack each other or demand our own rights. When this happens, it reveals a lack of standing firm and striving together. We have lost our focus. We have forgotten our mission. That’s one of the benefits of our missions conference – it calls us to refocus and recommit to fulfilling the Great Commission.
I pray that the passion for people modeled in our missionaries will be contagious. I pray that we will love and serve one another so sacrificially that even if we disagree about our preferences, we still stand united in our gospel mission. If we do not, we will simply become just like any other organization, which unite people around common interests. There is no spiritual power in that. The power we have as a church comes from being united in something far deeper than our interests. We are united in the glorious message that a Jewish rabbi lived a perfect life, died a substitutionary death, and rose victoriously from the dead. There is life in his name! This is good news. It’s good news for the young and the old, the rich and poor, for every people group and culture. Jesus is gathering a people to himself that may be radically different in every way, but are radically united in Him.
This is the power of the gospel. It unites people more deeply than anything else can. And it sends us out on mission to show the supreme wisdom of God in doing what we could never do in our own power. The church is God’s plan A for reaching the world. There is no plan B.
Is there something inhibiting you from striving together with our church for the gospel? Is that thing a gospel matter or a personal preference? Maybe we all need to take some time and repent of ways in which our lives have not been worthy of the gospel. And then we need to beg God to grant us the courage and faith to lock arms and strive together. The mission is too important. The stakes are too high. And Jesus is too glorious for anything less.