River City Spokane

Lights of the World: Philippians 2:12-18

Hey Everybody! Welcome to Gospel Home Brew a resource from River City Spokane. May the word of God brew in you today as we continue our study of Philippians. My name is Thomas Lambert and I am the pastor of the Emerson-Garfield home church here in Spokane.

My wife and I have long felt a call to serve Jesus internationally. We see ourselves serving the Church in a third world country, being a blessing to local believers and looking see more people know Christ. A few days ago we were reflecting on the season that the Lord has brought us to, a season that feels less like the spiritual rollercoaster of our early spiritual life and more like the return trip from a week long vacation. When I was a teenager and even in college, I basically lived from spiritual high to spiritual high, with some deep lows in between. You may have experienced the same thing. I would go to camp or a retreat, sense the presence of God which ignited me to live passionately for Him. For the next couple of weeks I would experience consistent quiet times and heartfelt worship but then the “fire” would die down to a small flame and eventually just embers. I would find myself losing interest in the scripture and begin to return to old sins. I would continue in that mode until another opportunity such as a worship night or camp came along again. My spiritual life was stuck in the cycle. Does that sound familiar to you? I hope you can agree that this is not the type of relationship God wants to have with us. If I described my marriage as something equivalent, most single people would say. “No thank you.” So, what does God desire our lives to look like spiritually? I pray as we continue our walk through Philippians, we would see our lives become less like jumping from stone to stone, and more like a walk on a long winding path. It seems that Paul is encouraging the Philippians, and us, to work toward having a long, slow, walk of obedience with Christ.

Today we are going to read through Philippians 2:12-18. Last week Colten discussed the Christ hymn that Paul included in the previous verses. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the podcast on verses 5-11, I encourage you to do that because verse 12 links our passage today with the previous verses with that word “therefore”. Paul is saying, “in light of what I just said”, and then continue exhorting the Philippians. Let’s keep that in mind as we read now.

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2:12-18)

Just prior to this Paul quoted the Christ-hymn which gives a beautiful presentation of the Gospel. In verses 10 and 11, we see that every knee shall bow at the name of Jesus, and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, “obey”. Paul tells the Philippians, “Don’t obey because of me, obey because of what Jesus has accomplished and because he is Lord.” Paul, and Jesus, desire more than just lip service from the Church in Philippi. Lip service is easy to do. Many of us Christians do so quite often, maybe even weekly. What do I mean by that? Jesus puts it plainly in Matthew 15:8. He says about the Pharisees, “These people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” Christ desires not just that our actions change, but that our hearts change. In the same way, Paul is encouraging the Philippians to be obedient to Christ even when he, Paul, is not there to see. D.L. Moody says that “Character is what you are in the dark.” How true that is.

Paul continues by telling the Philippians to “work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Remember the God that we just described back in the Christ hymn? Yeah, that God is who you should obey and it is for Him that you work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. These verses have a lot to unpack. Here we find a great introduction to “sanctification.” David Platt defines sanctification as the “life long obedience of believers, which leads us to growth in Christlikeness.” Sanctification is a long process, like a slow walk along a winding path. Through this process, we are purified like gold through fire. We are made more Holy, more like Jesus.

Sometimes it can be hard. When our sins are exposed, we may not like this idea. However, we need to be thankful that our Father cares so much about us that he wants to make us perfect, as He is perfect. So who does the work? Me or God? We see Paul present this mystery, maybe even a paradox, that in some way both God and I are involved in my sanctification. Charles Erdman says in like this, “Here thus are stated the two great realities of divine sovereignty and human free agency. The work is the work of God, and at the same time it is the work of man.God does not do one part of the work and man another part. The whole work is of God and whole work is of man.” Paul tells the Philippians to work, which carries this implication that in some way, they are involved and have an active part of “working out their salvation.” Now notice, they are not working for their salvation, that would be completely not-the-gospel. The beauty of the Gospel is that while we were in our sin, completely alienated and rebellious, Christ died for us. We did and do nothing to deserve it. The Philippians, and you and I, are not being encouraged to work in order to be saved. No, Paul says, “Hey you that have already been saved, continue you salvation until it is complete.” However, this not just our work. The very next phrase we find that it is actually God who is willing and working in us. I think this is a great reminder of just how far we are from being holy on our own. In fact, our flesh drives us away from the Father and the good things that he wants for us. The only thing in you or I that draws us to the Father is His Spirit, which is actually very much foreign to us.

So how are we supposed to do this work? With fear and trembling. As a young Christian, I had a hard understanding the idea of fearing God. You may have asked yourself also, “Why should I fear a God that supposedly loves me and wants the best for me?” It would seem that maybe the Father is much like many fathers around us which we must be careful not to make angry because his whole character changes. That is not what Paul is talking about here. This ‘fear’ is really more of a sense of awe. Matt Chandler compares our fear of God with our fear of a lion. “There is respect. There is a knowing of our place. That’s a lion. I am a man. He could eat me.
This inspires fear. This inspires awe. That’s the kind of healthy fear that we ought to have of God.” In C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Susan find outs that Aslan is not a man, but a lion. When she asked Mr. Beaver if Aslan was safe, Mr. Beaver replies,

“Of’course he is not safe, but he is good.”

So, just to recap, God is constantly willing and working in us and through us to carry our salvation on unto completion. In light of that, we should work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.

So how should we do this work? Paul goes on to say, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing”. At first glance, this seemed a little out of place because the subject seems to change so quickly. But, it actually makes a lot of sense. Paul is talking about sanctification which is the this long obedience in one direction. Much like the car ride on the way back from vacation. If you have ever been in a car with your family for an extended period of time, you know what generally happens. It is day seven of spending 24 hours a day with your family. Everyone is tired and ready to just be home. Cue the Complaining. Whining. Although Paul had never ridden in a car with his family for 8 hours, he seemed to be aware of the temptation for people to begin complaining when faced with a long slow task of which there seems no end in sight. Do you find yourself complaining or grumbling? For those of us apart of this church plant with Rivercity, this could definitely be a temptation. At the beginning of planting a church, everything seems really exciting and new. I would say that the Monday night Gospel home here in Spokane is really still in this part of our plant. There is a buzz and excitement surrounding the community. Tony Merida calls it the honeymoon of church planting. Everything feels new and ground breaking. However, after a while the new will wear off and we will find ourselves in that long slow walk. We will be tempted to begin to complain and grumble. I think this will especially be a temptation in a small community such as the ones that we are building at Rivercity. Think about it. Who are you most likely to complain to? I would bet it is those closest to you. My wife Rachael will hear me complain about people and problems before anyone else does. The reason is because we have a relationship and I expect her to get it, and maybe even agree.

River city home churches hope to create tight knit communities that grow to be more like a family. However, as we want this to lead to Gospel conversation, prayer, and encouragement, in our flesh these communities could lead to weekly meetings to complain about the world or even each other. That brings me to next point. Who in my life am I most likely to complain about? It is probably those that are closest to me. The people closest to us are the people we expect the most from and unfortunately the people we give the least grace. I pray that we can take Paul’s word to the Philippians personally and encourage each other not to lose focus and begin to complain about the things that are happening, or not happening. Instead, let’s focus on the Gospel. Let’s remember that we are all equally unworthy of the love of Christ, yet in Christ we are equally righteous. The ground at the cross is perfectly level.

So what is the purpose of living without complaining and grumbling? The reason is so that we, as the church, can be set apart from the world.

Paul says, “14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

We don’t have to look far to be reminded that we indeed live in a crooked and twisted generation. There is evidence all around us from the state of politics in the United States, the trade of sex slaves at home and abroad, the millions of abortions in the last few decades, and the list goes on and on. Where is the hope in this world? Where is the light in the darkness? Paul says that we, as followers of Christ, are to shine as lights in the world. That word for ‘lights’ is a very specific word in the Greek. It is not the word for candle or any household light but instead the word for stars or heavenly bodies. I think this reveals a little about what type of lights we should be. The best way that I can describe this is that we are like the moon on a dark night. I remember as a kid playing hide-and-seek outside in the dark. There were some nights that the moon seemed so bright that it was even difficult to hide at night. The thing about the moon is that it is constant. The moon is the same today as it was when I was a kid. Some nights it seems brighter than others but the moon has not changed. The best part about the moon is that the moon is not itself a light. There is no source of light from the moon, no fire or energy. The moon simply reflects the light from sun. In a similar way, we reflect the light of Christ. Without Christ, man cannot shine bright in a dark world. There is nothing in and of myself that can do that. The real source of life and light is Christ. So Christ has done it all. He has saved us as a people, filled us with his Holy Spirit and sent us to be a light to a dark world. However, there is one thing that will seem to dim our light. That would be complaining. Grumbling. Think of complaining as the fog that builds up on your headlights. I once drove a 97 Geo Metro with lights so fogged, I would have to get out and walk to front of the car to be sure my lights were on. Same with Christians. Be a complaining and grumbling person, and people may not even be sure you know Jesus. John Newton explains a complaining Christian like this:

“Suppose a man was going to New York to take possession of a large estate, and his carriage should break down a mile before he got to the city, which obliged him to walk the rest of the way; what a fool we would think him, if we saw him wringing his hands, and blubbering out all the remaining mile, “My carriage is broken! Mr carriage is broken!”

Anything in life that seems worth complaining about is quite small in comparison to Christ.

Want to keep from complaining? Hold fast to the word of life. The word reminds us that as Psalm 16 says, we have a delightful inheritance and the boundary line have fallen for us in pleasant places. I pray that we as a church do not become complainers but instead, people filled with the Joy of the Holy Spirit because of the amazing grace that God has shown us and desires to show to the entire world.

Paul finally ends this section by “practicing what he preaches.” In verses 17-18 Paul concludes, “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise, you also should be glad and rejoice with me.”

This is one of the things that I love about Paul. He was a true leader, and he always led by example. In this passage, we find Paul calling the Philippians to be joyful in the process of sanctification; to press on without complaining or grumbling about the people around them or the circumstances they find themselves in. And he can ask this of them because he is doing the same. Be reminded again, Paul is in prison awaiting a trial that would ultimately lead to his death. This letter reveals that Paul was aware of the hopelessness of his situation, yet he had found complete peace and joy. He could honestly say that he would rejoice and be glad even if it meant death for him.

In this part of Philippians, Paul seems to be urging the church to continue on this long slow journey or being sanctified in Christ so that they can shine bright against the darkness of the world. This process will take time. It will be hard many times, but be joyful because of the truths of the Christ hymn. Also, enjoy the spiritual highs, but expect more of a long slow obedient walk, or run. Elsewhere in his letters, Paul compares the Christian life to running a race. The race that most looks like our life is not a sprint but a marathon. A long, slow, gruelling, seemingly unending race. But what joy lies at the end of the race.

I pray today that we are as church can grow in endurance and faith so that we can find an appropriate pace in this long slow race. May the Holy Spirit help us to press onward and shine bright in the darkness.

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