Monday, January 10, 2011

Christ is Preached

Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from good will: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice. (Philippians 1:15-18, NKJV).
Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul provides a surprising perspective on acceptable motivations for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. And its this: the message of Christ coming into the world to die for the sins of mankind supersedes the often less than stellar attitudes of those declaring that message. That is, as long as the proclamations are accurate, the ulterior motives are irrelevant. God's truth will win out, and transform a heart that is honestly seeking him, regardless of the purity of the preacher's own heart.

The apostle had countless enemies, his countrymen, members and leaders of his former religious sect, the political movers and shakers of Rome, and even some in the churches he poured his life out to plant. Some of these people wanted nothing better than to see him fall, or remain imprisoned, or to damage his reputation, or supplant him in leadership. They were compelled by envy and strife to oppose Paul, and clearly, he was unfazed. That is an application for each one of us who name the name of Christ today, as well. 

One of the most transparent guises of envy is hypocrisy, the saying of one thing and the meaning of another, or the doing of something outwardly good and selfless from inward self-centeredness. When hypocrisy inevitably fails and is found out, strife becomes the next tactic of choice; the strategy of argumentativeness, contentiousness and disputation solely for the sake of being opposed.

Others preached merely for profit or to satisfy some selfish ambition, or from an egotistical conviction that by engaging in the very activity that Paul was no longer free to do, their doing it in his place would add affliction to [his] chains. Again, the apostle not only did not care, he REJOICED. Why? Because his ministry, his appointment as "defender of the gospel" was bigger than himself. His message was "the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes", and, therefore, the main thing was spreading the Word, not enlarging his own influence or fame. A man with an attitude like that is impossible to discourage.

Paul also rejoiced in the fact that some were moved by his imprisonment to become much more bold to speak the word without fear. Their motivation encompassed good will and love, and was not self-seeking at all. They understood his God-given mission and felt privileged carried it out in his place for a time, encouraged by the apostle's faithful example of suffering for Christ's sake.

In all things and everywhere, Paul lived his life in intimate fellowship with his God. He did not fear what man could do to him. He had unshakable confidence that his God's purposes would overcome all resistance, and if he himself was maligned, or martyred, or slandered for Christ's sake, it did not matter. He committed himself to the Righteous Judge. If, in carrying out God's will for his life, he experienced trials and tribulations, he counted it all joy.

A hard man to discourage. A hard man to provoke. A hard man to resist. A shining example for us today in this evil and contentious world.

As was summarized recently from someone near and dear to me:

Yet, amidst of all this violence, hatred, and injustice, the Lord Himself came and stood by His beloved servant and son. Despite the persecution, despite the imprisonment, despite the danger, Paul could be of good cheer. The Lord was sovereign over all. Paul had been faithful; he’d done what the Lord wanted him to and testified for Him... [and] Paul’s situation was from the Lord, not his enemies… R. Lilley