By NEMS Daily Journal
You are all my partners in God’s grace, both during my time in prison and in the defense and support of the gospel. God is my witness that I feel affection for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus.
This is my prayer: that your love might become even more and more rich with knowledge and all kinds of insight. I pray this so that you will be able to decide what really matters and so you will be sincere and blameless on the day of Christ. I pray that you will then be filled with the fruit of righteousness, which comes from Jesus Christ, in order to give glory and praise to God.
Brothers and sisters, I want you to know that the things that have happened to me have actually advanced the gospel. The whole Praetorian Guard and everyone else knows that I’m in prison for Christ. … Some certainly preach Christ with jealous and competitive motives, but others preach with good motives. They are motivated by love, because they know that I’m put here to give a defense of the gospel; the others preach Christ because of their selfish ambition. They are insincere, hoping to cause me more pain while I’m in prison.
… Rather, I hope with daring courage that Christ’s greatness will be seen in my body, now as always, whether I live or die. Because for me, living serves Christ and dying is even better. If I continue to live in this world, I get results from my work. But I don’t know what I prefer. I’m torn between the two because I want to leave this life and be with Christ, which is far better. However, it’s more important for me to stay in this world for your sake. I’m sure of this: I will stay alive and remain with all of you to help your progress and the joy of your faith, and to increase your pride in Christ Jesus through my presence when I visit you again.
Live worthy of the gospel
Most important, live together in a manner worthy of Christ’s gospel. … God has generously granted you the privilege, not only of believing in Christ but also of suffering for Christ’s sake. You are having the same struggle that you saw me face and now hear that I’m still facing.
– Philippians 1, the Common English Bible
American culture does not work well as a companion to the New Testament’s stories, encounters and letters explaining that people of Christian faith (Chrisitanity remains the dominant religion in the United States) must live up to high standards reflective of the founder, Jesus of Nazareth.
The temptations of society, both then and now, are easily seen throughout contemporary culture, including in the deeply religious South: living by bread alone and not by the word; following false gods of success, power and wealth; testing rather than trusting God.
Paul the Apostle, the evangelist who spread the Good News through the Roman Empire and, by extension, most of the world known to people in Europe and Asia Minor, was never more compelling than in reminding the communities of faith he had established that adversity is part of the journey, particularly suffering for Christ’s sake, as happened repeatedly to Paul.
Lives of wealth and ease are the gospel of the world.
The Good News from God is very different.
“Live worthy of the Gospel,” Paul wrote to the Philippian Christians.
Paul also understood the urgency of doing good in unity.
“This is my prayer: that your love might become even more and more rich with knowledge and all kinds of insight. I pray this so that you will be able to decide what really matters and so you will be sincere and blameless on the day of Christ. I pray that you will then be filled with the fruit of righteousness, which comes from Jesus Christ, in order to give glory and praise to God.”
The power of the world is glorious to see, but it is not what “really matters” as a follower of Jesus.