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Gospel Suffering

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
September 22, 2022 12:01 am

Gospel Suffering

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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September 22, 2022 12:01 am

The more we speak up for the truth of Christ, the more we'll attract the attention and opposition of the world. Today, Steven Lawson shows that following Jesus involves enduring suffering and persecution on account of His name.

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Today on Renewing Your Mind… Paul speaks to us in the Sermon on the Mount, an exhortation echoed by the Apostle Paul. Paul endured beatings, floggings, stonings, and shipwrecks, so he speaks to us with great credibility when it comes to being persecuted for righteousness.

This week on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. Stephen Lawson is examining Paul's instructions to the church at Philippi. Paul tells them, and by extension tells us, that we can expect to suffer for the sake of Christ. Come with me to Philippians chapter 1 and verse 29 and 30 for this session. I want to begin by reading the passage, For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, Not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now here to be in me. From these verses, we learn that all believers are appointed by God to pay a price for their faith. Suffering for the gospel is inevitable as we live in a fallen world. The degree of suffering or catching flak for our faith will differ from one believer to the next depending upon where God has placed you and who is around you and really the cultural climate of the time. Some followers of Christ pay a greater price than others, but all believers will face some opposition, some resistance, some pushback for their faith in the gospel. And if not, I think Paul would say to us, I wonder if you're even a Christian if you're not receiving some opposition. So this is what Paul is wanting the Philippians to know, that what suffering they are undergoing for the gospel in that godless culture is actually par for the course. It's no strange thing that is happening to them. And it is precisely what the Philippians are experiencing and what Paul wants them to know.

He wants them to know this, that if God has given you the gift of saving faith, He will also give to you suffering for the gospel. These two are a package deal. You cannot have one without the other.

It's not a multiple choice. You get to pick and choose which you want. Whenever God gives the one, He always gives the other. That's as clear as sunlight in this text. These two, believing and suffering, both gifts from God, are inseparably connected.

They are the heads and tails of the same coin. And so I want to begin by just asking you this question, how have you seen this in your own life? What price have you paid for being a Christian? It could be within your own household. It could be with in-laws. It could be with work associates.

It could be people in your neighborhood. I don't know how that would look in your life, but I'm just simply saying what Paul is saying here, that when God gives the gift of saving faith, He also gives the gift of suffering for Christ. So as we look at these two verses, they break out to me very easy. The first heading is the gift of believing. The second heading is the gift of suffering.

And the third heading is the example of suffering. So let's look first how Paul begins, and this would be under the heading, the gift of believing. He says, for to you, the you refers to believers, all the believers there in Philippi, and this can be extended to all believers everywhere, whatever century, whatever continent you live.

For to you, it has been granted. Something has been given to every believer, and it's given for Christ's sake, for the honor of Christ, for the glory of Christ. And he says, first, not only to believe in Him, you see, it must be given to a person to believe in Christ. Saving faith does not originate within a spiritually dead soul. Saving faith does not work its way up from within us. Saving faith has to come down from heaven. Saving faith must be a grace gift that is bestowed to the elect of God. To be given saving faith is to be given the ability to believe, and until this gift is given, you cannot believe. And there are so many passages in the New Testament that teach this.

Let me just give you a couple just to nail this down, and this goes back to Martin Luther's book The Bondage of the Will. Hebrews 12, verse 2, looking unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. Who authors saving faith in the believer?

Jesus Christ. And the faith that Jesus authors is a faith that will keep on believing. It will never go back to unbelief. He gives a faith that keeps on believing. That is why He is not only the author but the perfecter of faith. No believer will ever become an unbeliever because Jesus does not give a defective faith that only believes for a season, that only believes for the moment.

You know, the faith that Jesus gives is a faith that will believe throughout the entirety of one's life and on into eternity. Another passage would be Ephesians 2, verse 8 and 9, for by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not as a result of works, lest any man should boast. Well, what is the gift of God? Well, grammatically, the closest antecedent is faith. Really, both the grace and the faith is the gift of God. Believing grace, redeeming grace, reconciling grace, that's all God's gift, is it not, through the merit of Christ? But so also is faith the gift of God that He must give before someone can believe. This one other passage, 2 Peter 1 and verse 1, which is an often overlooked passage, Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours.

Did you hear that? Every believer has received a faith that is the same kind as every other believer. And by that it means a true, genuine, authentic embracing of Christ as Lord and Savior. If you're taking notes, Acts 3, verse 16 says, if I could paraphrase, that all faith in Christ is faith that comes from Christ and through Christ. So in other words, not only is Jesus the object of our faith, He is the source of our faith. He gives the faith to believe in Him. And in Acts chapter 11 and verse 18, it says that a door was opened for their faith. So the heart remains shut and closed until God opens that door to believe. It says God has granted to the Gentiles repentance that leads to faith.

So what we're saying is, is that all saving faith is the gift of God. And very simply, the reason is because one without Christ is spiritually dead. Dead men don't believe. Dead men only stink. Dead men cannot come to faith in Christ until life is given to them and they are granted the gift of faith.

So we're abundantly clear on this. Not hard to understand, maybe hard to swallow, but it's not hard to understand. That leads second now to the gift of suffering. He goes on to say in verse 29, but also to suffer. There we see that believing and suffering are a package deal.

You can never have one without the other, and this word, suffer, is a strong word. Pascho in the Greek, it means to be afflicted, inflicted with pain. And in this context, it's obvious the reason for this inflicted pain, it is because of one's testimony and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. If you take the Oxford English Dictionary and you look up the word passion, what you will find is the primary meaning is the passion of Christ as He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane.

It's a deep feeling as He had blood coming out of His sweat glands. And then their secondary meaning is the passion of the martyrs as they suffered for the gospel. That's what this word suffer means. And what Paul is saying is what the whole rest of the Bible is teaching, that 2 Timothy 3 verse 12, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. If I could just take us to some passages just to verify this. In Matthew chapter 5 and verses 10 through 11, it is the crowning beatitude, the eighth and final beatitude, and it really… everything has led up to this final beatitude. Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are they who mourn, blessed are the meek, blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, blessed are the gentle, blessed are the merciful, blessed are the pure in heart, blessed are the peacemakers. We come now to the eighth beatitude, and it's the only one that's repeated.

In fact, it occupies three verses just to weight its reality and importance. Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. In other words, if there's not persecution to some degree, the kingdom of heaven is not yours. You're outside the kingdom. And evidence that you're in the kingdom is that you catch some degree of flack for your faith. If you live as the first seven beatitudes would call us to live, you're going to stand out like a star on a dark night. You're going to be cutting against the grain. There's going to be an inevitable consequence for living with that kind of humility and to be that… attempt to be that kind of a peacemaker.

No, there's going to be some blowback. He says in verse 11, blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. I preach this in Russia, and people are in tears. I preach this in America over the last several years, and people scratch their head and just say, I wonder who He's talking about. Well, the tide… the tide is changing.

And this is more relevant than tomorrow's newspaper. This is where we now find ourselves, and it will separate the wheat from the tares. It will separate just even church attenders from those who are actually born again and who know the Lord because they're going to be flying their flag for the Lord Jesus Christ. Come to Matthew chapter 10 just for a moment, just to look at a few other verses. Jesus said to His disciples, behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. So be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. I don't think the world's changed.

I don't think much has changed. Look at verse 22, you will be hated by all because of My name. Verse 24, a disciple is not above his teacher nor a slave above his master. It's enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher and his slave like his master. We say, oh, I want to be like Jesus.

I want to be like my master. We'll continue to read verse 25. If they called the head of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they malign the members of his household? As we are becoming like Christ, we will also suffer like Christ. Did anyone receive greater rejection and reviling than our master?

That is true of the head of the house. How much more for the slaves and the servants, you and me, who are in this house? Come to John chapter 15 just very quickly, John chapter 15, and it's always great to go to cross-references because it shows how the Bible speaks with one voice, that it never contradicts itself and it adds weight to a particular passage to see how the whole rest of the Bible is saying amen to this passage, is affirming what this passage is teaching. In John chapter 15, beginning in verse 18, if the world hates you, it better be translated since the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own, but because you're not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this, the world hates you. That doesn't mean love less.

That means hate. Verse 20, remember the word that I said to you, a slave is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. We see here the inevitability for all disciples of Christ to receive persecution for their faith.

And the more godless the society and the more fanatical the false religion, the greater is the persecution. In Acts chapter 14 and verse 22, as Paul is planting churches on his first missionary journey as he's traveling through Galatia, in the cities in Galatia, and he comes back to revisit some, and he appoints elders in those churches. He says this to them, to the church, through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. He announces to each individual church, hardly would seem to be a church-growth strategy, through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And then when we come to the book of 1 Peter, the book of 1 Peter makes this so very clear.

In fact, that's how the book begins. In 1 Peter chapter 1, Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered – why would they be scattered? Because they've been run out of town.

Scattered throughout Pontius, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, Bithynia, who are chosen. Oh, the doctrine of election becomes very precious when you're rejected by the world to know that you're a first-round lottery pick by God, that He has chosen you before the foundation of the world as you are in the midst of being utterly despised and rejected by the world. Well, come to chapter 4, 1 Peter chapter 4, and beginning in verse 12, this is a good verse for us to hear, beloved – there's a tenderness, pastoral tenderness there, beloved – do not be surprised – why would he say that?

Because they were surprised at what follows. Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal – it's like they've been thrown into the furnace of affliction like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you. But to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory – that's referring to the second coming – you may rejoice with exaltation. Verse 14, if you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. Speech after passage after passage, we read of the New Testament, especially encouraging believers as they are suffering for their faith, and the Lord Jesus Christ spoke so directly to His disciples about this, even to the point in Acts 1, 8 where He says, you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and under the uttermost parts of the world. The word witness, marteres, comes into the English language as martyr, that to be a witness in the first century was synonymous with being a martyr. And so, a martyr is a witness, a witness is a martyr, just interchangeable words. So, but better to suffer for Christ temporarily and spend all eternity with Him in glory than to have a posh life now and to end up in the bowels of hell forever.

Well, let's come back to our text. We've been looking at Philippians 1, verse 29, for to you it has been granted for Christ's sake not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer. One last heading to put before you, the example of suffering, I don't really have much time to expound on it, but it's in verse 30, Paul gives himself as an example of this suffering because we know how the Philippians would be thinking, just like I would say about Paul, well, you're the greatest Christian who ever lived, and you suffered, because sometimes we think, well, we suffer for the gospel because there must be something wrong about my life or my witness. No, it's probably because there's everything right about your life and your witness. And so, Paul, in verse 30, uses himself really to encourage the Philippians, hey, it's been true in my life, it's going to be true in your life.

Nobody gets to live above this. So he says, experiencing the same conflict, and this word conflict, agon, in the original language comes into the English language as agony, this same agony, which you saw in me. Well, they saw it when Paul was there in Acts chapter 16.

You can read about it on your own. Paul was arrested, literally drugged, through the streets of Philippi before the authorities, and there he was beaten and flogged and then thrown into prison where he is in chains and stocks and is suffering for the gospel. And Paul is saying, hey, you saw it, I mean, the Philippian jailer who was converted saw it. And he says, and now here to be in me, meaning nothing's changed since I was there with you, is what happened when I was with you in Philippi, is where my life is right now as Paul is in Rome in prison for the gospel chained to Roman soldiers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and literally every stage in between. It's been ten years since Paul was in Philippi in the time of this writing, and for ten solid years, Paul goes into town and preaches the gospel, he might as well just go ahead and check himself into prison, because it's inevitable that it's coming. And so Paul uses himself here to encourage the believers that this is true even of their former pastor and their spiritual leader and their father in the faith, and so it will be true in your life. So let me ask you this question as we bring this to a conclusion. How do you catch flak for your faith?

How do you suffer right now? And are you preparing yourself for the suffering that will come for naming the name of Christ? I do know this, the more we speak up for Christ, the more we will draw the attention of the world and their resistance. If we just remain silent and hide our faith and become a camouflaged Christian, yeah, you may not stand out quite as much, but if you live on the front lines for the Lord, you won't have to go looking for it, it'll find you. That's a scary thought, isn't it? And to be honest, it does cause us to wonder what may come to us in terms of persecution.

But Jesus has promised never to leave us or forsake us. We're glad you've joined us today for Renewing Your Mind. I'm Lee Webb, and we are pleased to feature Dr. Stephen Lawson's latest teaching series, Rejoice in the Lord, Paul's letter to the Philippians.

In 42 messages, we discover verse by verse the joy of the Lord amid trial and suffering. This week is the first time we've made this series available. You can request the six-DVD set when you give a donation of any amount. As soon as your gift is processed, we'll be adding the teaching series to your learning library allowing you to stream the series right away. You'll also receive the digital study guide that includes lesson goals, message outlines, and questions for group discussion.

You can find us online at, or you can call us with your gift at 800-435-4343. And let me take just a moment to thank you for your support of Ligonier Ministries. The Christian faith is facing a full frontal assault from our culture today.

Many reject the existence of God and the reliability of His Word without ever considering the overwhelming evidence. It is our goal here to equip you as believers to know what you believe, why you believe it, how to live it, and how to share it. And your donations make that possible. So thank you. Well, tomorrow Dr. Lawson will show us that in the book of Philippians, Paul had a goal for the church. That the unity within the Trinity, within the Godhead, would be but a picture of the unity that must be in the church, to be one in doctrine, to be one in love, to be one in purpose, to be one in mission, to be one mindset. I hope you'll join us for that message tomorrow here on Redoing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-16 13:23:28 / 2023-01-16 13:32:18 / 9

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