Whatever happens, conduct yourselves worthy of the gospel of Christ. v27.


Warren Wiersbee writes, 'The Christian life is not a playground; it is a battleground.' Now on a battleground anything goes. The ordinary standards of civilised behaviour are abandoned. Paul says that whatever happens in the Christian conflict we have to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. 'Whatever happens', covers the widest possible range of set backs: unemployment, ill health, loss of friends, disappointment in love, pressure of work, spiritual depression, lack of appreciation, disloyalty and bereavement. Whatever happens, says Paul, in success and failure, prosperity and poverty, happiness and misery, victory and defeat, we are to conduct ourselves worthy of the blessed gospel of our Saviour and Lord. In the Greek the word translated, 'conduct ourselves,' is a citizenship expression. It is used of the conduct expected of a Roman citizen living up to the ideals of citizenship. We might use the expression, 'conduct unbecoming to an English gentlemen,' and have in mind the high ideals which the administrators of Empire displayed: fair play, decency and a commitment to public service without thought of private gain. The reality of these qualities left for Britain a legacy of affection in many of its former colonies. Paul urges the Philippians to live up to the ideals implicit in the gospel of Christ. What are they?

(B) It is a gospel of liberty

Jesus said, "Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free." John8v32. What is the truth of the gospel? It is that Jesus came into the world to save sinners from the consequences of their sin by his death on the cross. His supreme sacrifice reconciles believers to God in heaven. More than that they are adopted into God's family and become his sons and daughters. Followers of Jesus are given new life in him and are indwelt by his Spirit. Jesus promises, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life." John8v12.

Charles Westley captures these aspects of the gospel in his hymn of superlative worth:

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose went forth, and followed thee.

So are we free? Are we free from self-consciousness, shyness and a tendency to acute embarrassment that inhibits, shackles and destroys our usefulness as Christians. Adam and Eve only became embarrassed and inhibited after the fall. Jesus wasn't self-conscious and I think Christ's free and joyous spirit is captured by the song, 'The Lord of the dance':

I danced in the morning
When the world was begun
And I danced in the moon
And the stars and the sun,
And I came down from heaven
And I danced on earth -
At Bethlehem I had my birth

Acute self-consciousness and diffidence are rooted in insecurity and how we feel about ourselves. Now there is no excuse for a Christian feeling bad about him or her self. We belong to Jesus and are ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven. We are sons of God, joint heirs with Christ, and citizens of heaven. Our status could not be higher and our status is assured. How is it possible for us to still feel bad about ourselves? Well I know that some do. You need to take hold of the glorious truths of the gospel by faith and live by those truths - conduct yourselves worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Other Christians seem to suffer from a persecution complex. They over react when they are demeaned, belittled or put down. If my competence is criticised or I get less than my due I get resentful and very angry. As I approached the end of my career I said to one class, "After I have retired I will be going on holiday to Japan - perhaps, I will come back and give a talk on my experience." One boy said, "Don't bother, Mr Reed." Now I could have shrugged off this small slight - it reflected more badly on the boy who made it than me. Instead I gave him a tongue-lashing. I have a friend whose wife is small and lacking presence. She overheard the vicar's wife call her a funny little woman. That remark rankled and soured her relationship with the vicar's wife. When we get so agitated about people's opinion of us we are being protective or defensive about our status. We are either not sure of it or care too much about it. As Christians we should be set free from such preoccupations because we are God's sons and daughters by adoption and infinitely precious too him. God's opinion of us is the only one that matters. Whatever happens says Paul, whatever foolish or unkind things people say about you, conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

(C) It is a gospel of life

Jesus said, "I am come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John10v10. Jesus promised to give eternal life, the ultimate life, to all who believe in him. If we are living worthy of the gospel of life we should, whatever happens:

    (a) Be busy in Christian service. How can we have life to the full and be idle. Often the idlest Christians are the most discontented and peevish. Those that work hard are not the habitual complainers and congenital whingers.

    (b) Have a sense of achievement. The servant in the parable of the talents who buried the one talent he was given to advance the cause of his master did not get any satisfaction from his action. He comes moaning and complaining into his master's presence with nothing to show for the opportunity he was given to serve his lord. His attitude was wholly negative and destructively cautious. He wasn't living worthy of the gospel of Christ. If we wish to please Jesus we must be doers of the word. "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." Mat7v21.

    (c) Enjoy Christian fellowship. One of my better qualities as a schoolteacher was that I enjoyed the company of the boys and girls. If I was on duty and a high-spirited pupil approached me and said, "Hi! Mr Reed - give us some skin," or "Give us five," I would oblige by slapping hands with every appearance of happy camaraderie. Do we revel in the company of our Christian brethren? This is not immediately apparent from the number of times Christians meet together for worship in the week or, indeed, informally. I pay a lot of visits and get much satisfaction from being with my old Christian friends. Once a month I play Scrabble with Dorothy and Edward and it is lovely to meet together in this way. Do we spend much time in each other's homes? We read of the early church: Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. Acts2v46 and 47. Perhaps it is too much to expect the euphoria of the first believers to be evident today. However failure to delight in the fellowship of the citizens of heaven and grudging the time spent in Christian service suggests that we are not conducting ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

(D) It is a gospel of love.

Even Christians, like myself, with the poorest of memories can quote the gospel in a nutshell: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John3v16. If we could only remember one verse in the Bible this is probably the one to choose.

For God so love the world he gave... Is our conduct marked by generosity? We are not living worthy of the gospel of Christ if we do not show generosity to others. I was once covering an art class for the absent Cedric Stanton and to wile away the time I looked through a sketchpad of one of his pupils that was lying on his desk. What struck me were his comments on the efforts of the very moderate artist to whom the pad belonged: 'Very promising', 'Very pleasing,' 'Brilliant,' 'Brilliant again,' and so on. One of the reasons for Cedric's success as a teacher was the generosity of his praise. He greatly encouraged the weakest of his students. Are we generous with our appreciation? There are a few people who attend my church who have never thanked me for a sermon. They have no generosity of spirit. It is a good rule of thumb to always show appreciation when you can.

The great verse continues: that whosever believes in him shall not perish.. Is our conduct marked by forgiveness? I was talking once to another colleague, who shall be nameless, although he was quite as good a teacher as Cedric in certain respects. This teacher, Mr X, could not get on with a boy whom I will call Danny Dixon. Danny used to torment Mr X. He was perceptive of his teacher's weaknesses and exploited them with a series of cruel comments. Mr X said to me - "I'm going to get him: I'm keeping a list." Danny's every misdemeanour and barbed comment was recorded. Do we keep a list? Love keeps no record of wrongs - See 1Cor13. If we harbour a grudge or nurture a bitter memory we are not conducting ourselves worthy of the gospel of Christ

(E) Conclusion

Many in the world around us knows only the gospel that it sees in our lives:

You are writing a gospel
A chapter each day
By the deeds that you do
And the words that you say.
Men read what you write
Whether faithful or true;
Just what is the gospel
According to you?

Paul wrote this to the Corinthian church: You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. 2Cor3v2. How do men read us? My pupils would say, "Mr Reed is religious." I overheard my old friend, Tommy Bamber, sadly not a Christian although a good man, describe me to our Japanese hosts during our holiday in that country. He said, "My ugly little friend is very strict and religious." Now I do not consider these comments a ringing endorsement of my Christian profession, nor would I wholly agree with them, but, at least, they indicate where my priorities lie. Are we known as persons of integrity and honour?

I know that the last thing Satan wants is for me to conduct myself worthy of the gospel of Christ. I am frequently tempted to behave in a way that is unbecoming to the gospel. We will be helped to resist if we remind ourselves from time to time that it is a gospel of freedom, of life and of love.