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Contagious Christianity

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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April 22, 2022 12:01 am

Contagious Christianity

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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April 22, 2022 12:01 am

Christians may be persecuted or imprisoned, but the gospel of Jesus Christ can never be contained. Today, Steven Lawson encourages us to look for opportunities to spread the good news of Christ even in life's most trying circumstances.

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Today on Renewing Your Mind… ... .... .... ...... ... So, I want you to know I'm okay, and I'm actually rejoicing because the gospel is going into places it would have never gone unless I had been arrested, imprisoned, and put here in this house arrest.

So, Paul viewed this trial through the paradigm of how does this progress the gospel? That's how you and I need to interpret our circumstances. For example, a trip to the hospital. What opportunity does this provide me to witness for Christ? A death in the family. How does this provide an open door for me to share my faith in Christ with other family members?

Or the loss of a job, and now I'm having to interview other places. How does this provide for me greater opportunity to be a witness for Christ with people with whom I would have never had this opportunity? So that's how we must see our circumstances. That's how Paul saw his circumstances, and that is also how he could rejoice while he was in prison because he had a captive audience. They couldn't get away from him. They were chained to him. And as they're rotating the Praetorian Guard through being chained to Paul, he's picking them off one at a time with the gospel.

They can't get away from him. They're going back into Caesar's household, right where Caesar lives, and they're spreading the gospel with other servants and with other people who worked there. Paul could have never gotten the gospel inside there, except he was imprisoned. So he wants to know, he wants the Philippians to know, hey, I know you're worried for me.

Don't worry. God's using this in a far greater way. So let's look at these verses. I think these should be a great encouragement to us, especially in this hour in which we live in which there's so much uncertainty in the world, and we see so much moral decline, and it upsets us rightly so. But let's also remember there are new opportunities to share the gospel through all of this, and our comfort is not the goal, it's the spread of the gospel is what we want. So having said that, I want you to note first Paul's confidence in verse 12, Paul's confidence. Paul begins, now I want you to know, brethren, he's very emphatic about this, and it's almost like he understands he's going to have to really get through to them.

You're going to have to really understand this, what I'm about to tell you, and you're going to have to trust me for this. I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances, and he's referring to as imprisonment, a two-year imprisonment by the way, have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel. That's a very spiritual perspective.

That is taking an eternal perspective. The word progress here means to advance forward, to proceed forward. It was used of a pioneer advancing into uncharted territory, and Paul understands that's exactly what's happening, that the gospel is going forward just like a pioneer scout into uncharted territory to bring the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ into places where it would have never gone otherwise. But it's not just the progress. Please note the greater progress.

Do you see that in your Bible? The word greater means very much greater progress. It wasn't just a little progress. It was opening up a whole vast frontier for the gospel. It was opening up a whole new realm into which the gospel now can advance. So from a human perspective, these were the worst of times. From the divine perspective, these were the best of times.

It all depends, what perspective do you have? And so this gospel perspective must be our gospel perspective. And I want to say it again, if you become ill and have to go to the hospital, I mean, in one sense that's not good news, but in another sense it is good news, because now there's going to be nurses and doctors and hospital administrators and all kinds of people with whom you will come in contact that you can be a witness for Christ to them. Let's say you get a flat tire after this session, and you have to call roadside assistance. There's an opportunity for you to tell someone about Jesus Christ, that flat tire is actually good news for you because now you have a new congregation to whom you may preach the gospel. So that's Paul's confidence.

That must be your confidence, and that must be my confidence. When I miss an airplane flight, I fly a lot. I used to get all stressed out about it, but now I just think, Lord, who do you want me to witness to? Who's going to be sitting next to me?

Who is on this other flight? You just reshuffle the deck by your sovereign will. There is a purpose for everything, and God's purpose is to spread the gospel. So that's Paul's confidence.

It must be ours. I want you to note second now in verse 13, Paul's confinement. He says in verse 13, so that my imprisonment, and the word imprisonment literally means bonds or chains.

The King James Version translates it chains, and Paul's imprisonment was more than just he was imprisoned in a house or a room, but that he literally had chains in which he was fastened to Roman soldiers twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. He adds my imprisonment in the cause of Christ. Paul is suffering for righteousness' sake. Paul is suffering for the gospel, for the cause of Christ. Sometimes we suffer because it's our own fault, it's our own mistake, or it's our own sin.

In this case, no, it's because of Christ, and that is suffering for righteousness. And we should wear that as a badge of honor. So look at verse 13 again, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole Praetorian Guard. Let's just stop here for a moment, the Praetorian Guard. These were the most elite group of Roman soldiers in the empire. These were the personal bodyguards of Caesar. They served in Caesar's palace, and they did more than just protect Caesar. At times they were even counselors of Caesar to let him know what's going on out there. They were assigned to guard Paul because he was so important as a prisoner.

Think about this. They could have just sent, you know, the rank and file Roman soldiers to keep an eye on Paul, but the gospel is always so controversial. The gospel always shakes things up, and so they assign the Praetorian Guard, which would be like the Navy Seal or something, to be chained to Paul because we cannot afford to have this man loose preaching the gospel in the streets of Rome. And it also speaks to how powerful the gospel is. And so they assign these guards to Paul, and Paul writes, well, it's well known throughout the Praetorian Guard that I'm here for the cause of Christ.

How would it be made known? Because Paul's given them an earful, that's why. Paul has told them time and time again who he is and what he believes and why he's here and what they must do, and they know that, they know the gospel because they're hearing it from Paul, and Paul has become the talk of the palace as they go back and spread it among the others. And Paul was so effective in his witness. You may want to just turn back to it to chapter 4, verse 22. This is a very interesting little footnote. At the end of the book of Philippians, don't let this escape your attention, Philippians 4, verse 22, the text reads, All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar's household.

Hello. These Praetorian Guard are now followers of Jesus Christ. They now have surrendered their life to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords as they serve in Caesar's household.

Their allegiance is now to the Caesar of Caesar, Jesus Christ our Lord. And so Paul just adds this at the end of the book of Philippians with probably a little smile on his face just to encourage the Philippians, hey, God's got this all under control. God is using my imprisonment to invade Caesar's household with the gospel. Listen, God never has to have the circumstances just right in order for Him to spread the gospel. In fact, the gospel has always spread the greatest when there has been adversity.

And the gospel has always been slowed down where there is prosperity, because with prosperity we become lax, we become lackadaisical, we become self-reliant, we become worldly, we become distracted, but with adversity we are now weaned off of the world, we're on our knees in prayer, and we're thinking of eternal issues. And that's exactly what's going on here through the adversity of Paul. The gospel is spreading in extraordinary measure. We also learn from this how just one person being saved can affect so many people. Paul is affecting now a vast multitude of people, and we might say, well, that's just because that was Paul.

Listen, Paul's in chains. I mean, Paul's very confined and restricted, but because of his courage and boldness with the gospel, it's spreading like wildfire. And I think we learn from this that the gospel is contagious. The gospel cannot be contained. And the gospel, when one person is bold in their faith, has a multiplying effect that reaches so many other people. In fact, I've been a pastor for almost 40 years, and I have seen in my pastorate that when one person is saved, it inevitably means three more people are going to be saved because of their circle of friends, because people who know them and have thought, well, I thought you were a Christian. No, I just now am born again. That affects them, and it just shakes up so many people.

It's happened almost every time. When one person gets saved, there's going to be three or four more people who are going to be saved. I remember once after a church service, I had a lady come to me and said, I have to talk to you. And her husband was with her, and we went into a back room there in the church, sat down. She poured her heart out. I shared the gospel again with her, and she prayed and committed her life to Christ. I mean, that little room was like a maternity ward as she was just birthed into the kingdom. And she said, Amen. We raised our heads, getting ready to walk out. Her husband was standing right there, and he said to me, well, if she needs to be saved, then I know I need to be saved. I couldn't believe it. So I said, well, here, you sit in the chair where she's been sitting.

Let me go back over this with you one more time. And he prayed and committed his life to Christ, right there, two at once. We come walking out of that room.

I run into another man. It's the second verse. The third verse, same as the first. Whenever one person is saved, it inevitably leads to others who are saved.

It's a chain reaction, and that's what's taking place here in Rome. As Paul is leading these Praetorian Guard to faith in Christ, it's just spreading. Now I want you to see verse 14, Paul's challenge, Paul's challenge. He says in verse 14, and that most of the brethren have far more courage to speak the Word of God without fear. You see, Paul's boldness and Paul's courage has had an effect on the other Christians. Not only has Paul's boldness led the Praetorian Guard evangelistically to faith in Christ, but Paul's boldness also has an effect upon those who are already saved. It makes them all the more bold in their faith because they see it in Paul, and it pushes them in the right direction.

It convicts them. It challenges them. And that's what Paul is saying here, that most of the brethren, referring to those who are in Rome, and the word most here carries the idea of large numbers, have far more courage.

And the word far more is that same word that means beyond measure, exceedingly more, more in a far greater degree, have far more courage. They're becoming daring in their witness for Christ. It kind of is shaming everyone else and urging them to up their game, that we're going to have to speak. If Paul can speak out while he's chained to Roman soldiers awaiting trial before Caesar, then surely we can speak up in our neighborhood.

Then surely we can speak up when we go into the marketplace. And so it says that most of the brethren have far more courage to speak the Word of God without fear. And the Word of God here refers to the gospel of God, the name of Christ, the way of salvation, the necessity of repentance, the commitment of faith. They have far more courage to speak the Word of God without fear, without hesitation, without fear of consequences, without being reluctant, without being tongue-tied. And he says, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment. They are trusting in the Lord to protect them.

They are trusting in the Lord to use them. And everyone who is effective in being a witness for Jesus Christ is someone who is trusting in the Lord, to do it in them and through them. And you may find it an encouragement that in the book of Ephesians chapter 6 and in verse, in verse 20, Paul says, pray for me that the Lord will give me boldness to speak as I ought to speak. So Paul was not Superman. Paul was of flesh and blood like you and me. And even the Apostle Paul had to ask the church in Ephesus, listen, while you're praying, pray for my boldness that I will have courage to speak up for Christ. And please note, Paul was not praying, get me out of prison. Paul was praying, give me boldness while I'm here in prison.

And as God answered that prayer, it emboldened the other believers in Rome who are living under the shadow of Caesar's palace and household. So what do we draw from this for our Christian lives? Well, Alexander MacLaren was a noted Scottish preacher in the 19th century, and he said this, one soul, all on flame, has power to kindle others, close quote. In other words, one man on fire for God, one woman on fire for God is ignited with a fire that spreads to others in their family, in their close contacts and associations, that that fire spreads like wildfire to others.

So this speaks to how you and I need to be, first of all, with people like this. We need to be with people who are on fire for God. We need to fellowship with people who are on fire with God. Whoever in this room is most on fire for God, you need to spend time with them and just pray that you'll catch fire as you're with them. And then you need to find people who are not on fire and let that fire spread to them.

We're all either being ignited by someone else or we're igniting someone else or both at the same time. And so that's how we need to allow our life to be used for the Lord. I'm reminded in 1555, Mary I, known as Bloody Mary, sat on the throne of England and issued the order to burn the English reformers. And in fact, in front of my preaching Bible, some of you may know this, I keep a picture of John Rogers. He was the first Marian martyr burned at the stake in Smithfield, London, March or February the 4th, 1555. Later, the greatest preacher of the English Reformation, Hugh Latimer, and the greatest theologian of the English Reformation, Nicholas Ridley, were arrested and taken to Oxford, where they stood trial, heresy trial, and it was there that they were strapped to the same stake.

I was just there a year ago and there's an X that marks the spot in the middle of the road. And as they were strapped to the same stake back to back and the stake was ignited, as you know this famous account, Latimer says to Ridley, be of good comfort, Master Ridley, play the man. We shall this day light such a candle by God's grace in England as I trust shall never be put out. Well, may you be used by God to light such a flame of a witness for Christ that will spread to others, that its effect will never be put out. And as you view your circumstances, as the Apostle Paul did, even when others are trying to encourage you, you have a great opportunity to say, hey, it's okay. God is using this trial to advance the gospel in places it would have never advanced other wise. God has His sovereign purposes in this, and in this I rejoice because the gospel is moving forward. May God give us this kind of faith and may God give us this eternal perspective that the worst of times in reality can be the best of times as it relates to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Those are difficult words to put into practice, aren't they? We all sense the tension growing around the world, both culturally and politically, and it's so easy to be fearful. But as Dr. Stephen Lawson taught us today, the gospel message is all the brighter in troubled times. We're glad you've joined us for Renewing Your Mind today and Dr. Lawson's series, Rejoice in the Lord, Paul's Letter to the Philippians. In this letter, Paul exhorted fearful Christians in Philippi to share in his joy.

But how did he have such peace of mind when he was in prison under the threat of execution? Dr. Lawson addresses that and other key themes in Philippians in 24 messages. We'd like to send you this 6-DVD set.

Just give a donation of any amount to Ligonier Ministries when you call us at 800-435-4343, or when you go online to Our founder, Dr. R.C. Sproul, often reminded us that Christians live quorum Deo, before the face of God. Many people today are asking questions about their identity and purpose. Who am I?

What is my life all about? To bring clarity in a time of confusion, Dr. Sproul maintained that the big idea of the Christian life is to live our whole lives in the presence of God, under the authority of God, and to the glory of God. And as we publish and produce teaching resources like you heard today, and as we send them around the world, people are being reminded of just that. So thank you for your generous gift. Beginning Monday of next week, we will bring you several lessons from Dr. Sproul's sweeping overview of classical apologetics, and he'll address this question, Do science and logic have any place in our defense of the Christian faith? I hope you'll join us all next week for Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-28 22:17:05 / 2023-04-28 22:25:26 / 8

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