Thrust Statement: God wants His people to shine like stars in the universe.

Scripture Reading: Philippians 2:14-18

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the Word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing (Philippians 2:14-16).[1]

            Paul is continuing the development of his thoughts from verses 12 and 13.  He wants the Philippians to work out their salvation with fear and trembling (verse 12).  It is God who initiated this whole movement of salvation so that the Philippians could be forgiven.  It is God who inaugurated this salvation so that we may be saved and redeemed and made holy.  God is concerned about Betty Gatewood; He is concerned about Rich Harrison; He is concerned about David and Brenda Neenan; He is concerned about Frank DiBattiste; He is concerned about Lavar Small; He is concerned about Toni Smith; He is concerned about Jerry Yarckou.

Yes, God desires every one of His redeemed to shine light stars in the universe. God wants His people to conduct themselves in a manner that is worthy of the Gospel.  He wants one’s behavior to shine forth as lights in a wicked world.  Are you shining? What about your everyday walk with God? Can you say, “I live my life in such a way that I uphold the Gospel of Christ”? The Gospel of Christ has ethical implications. The Gospel is good news about God’s way of salvation. But there is a sense in which one “obeys the Gospel” by the way he/she lives. 

Paul, in his second letter to the Thessalonians, warns of God’s judgment against individuals whose lives do not exemplify the Gospel of God: “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1:8). What does it mean to you to “obey the gospel”? Do you relate the phrase, “obeying the gospel,” as submitting your life to the Lord Jesus? Is ethical behavior a part of what it means to “obey the gospel”? If you are not living a good and clean life, then you are not “obeying the gospel.” Is your manner of life “worthy of the gospel of Christ”?  To “obey the gospel” is much more than just being baptized, which is what is usually connected with this phrase. The context indicates that this obedience is linked with Christian living.

We should never forget that it is God working in us “to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:14).  He is concerned about your soul and mine.  God is holding on to each of us, and He will go on working in each of us until we have arrived at that state for which He destined us.  We have “tasted the heavenly gift” (Hebrews 6:4); we have “shared in the Holy Spirit (6:4); we have “tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age” (6:5).  Even though the positives of our spiritual blessings are almost beyond our grasp, yet, we must still examine and question the negative aspects of our fleshly nature. Have we turned away from God?  Have we bowed away from all this goodness of God?  If so, our prayers should be that we will confess our sins and repent.  Remember the words of John:

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:1-2).

            Your negligence did not come overnight.  Generally, one’s digression back into sin is something that happens gradually.  Perhaps it starts with missing your daily devotional or your quiet time with God; it may be that it begins when a Wednesday night Bible study is pushed aside; or, it may have started when Sunday morning gatherings are taken very lightly. Are you cold or hot for the Lord? Are you lukewarm in your commitment to the Lord? Do you flirt around with sin? How long has it been since you reflected upon the words of Paul to the Galatians? Listen to Paul as he encourages the believers to walk in the Spirit and not in the lust of the flesh:

16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.  18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. 19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.  25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-25).

Have you crucified your “sinful nature with its passions and desires”? Perhaps your downfall started when you ceased reading the Word of God day and night. Do you say, “I don’t have time to read the Bible.”  Do you have time to watch television? Do you have time to read the newspaper? Do you have time for whatever you want to do?  Do you meditate in the Word as the Psalmist speaks of in the first Psalm?

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).

The Apostle Peter also encourages Christians scattered throughout  Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia” to

Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.  2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good (1 Peter 2:1-3).

If you are a Christian, then you “have tasted that the Lord is good.” If you are a Christian, then you must be conscious that God has chosen you to a live pure and holy life. God expects obedience to His Word. Listen again as Peter draws attention to the sanctifying work of the Holy Sprit and its implications: “obedience to Jesus Christ” (2:1).

If you are not right with God, my prayer is that you will remember the words of the Holy Spirit: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 3:7,8).  God’s invitation is extended to everyone.  Listen to the words of John in the book of Revelation:

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life (Revelation 22:17).

            Have you forgotten that “You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13)?  Have you forgotten that “You are the light of the world” (5:14)?  Through Paul, the Holy Spirit is reminding the Philippians that they are to “shine like stars in the universe” (Philippians 2:15).  How does this shining occur?  Listen again as the Holy Spirit speaks about the believers’ activity in His service: “as you hold out the word of life” (2:16).  Are you holding out the word of life?  Is your light under a bowl? Or is your light on a stand so that it may give light to everyone in the house (Matthew 5:15).  God’s people are to let their light shine so that people “may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (5:16).

WORK OUT YOUR SALVATION

            Not only does Paul tell the Philippians what to do, but he also tells them what to avoid.  He appeals for Christian conduct.  Paul’s immediate purpose here is to exhort them to work out their salvation with fear and trembling.  Many can work out their salvation with fear and trembling as long as things are going well, but what happens to this fear and trembling if unpleasant things happen to us?  How do we react toward God’s grace?   Have you lost a loved one?  Have you lost a job?  Have you lost a husband or wife through divorce?  Have you lost your home?  Have you lost your good health?  If so, how do you react toward the one who sent His Son to die for you?

            Paul’s immediate purpose is to exhort the Philippians to work out their salvation without “complaining or arguing” (2:14).  Even though they were undergoing many conflicts, nevertheless, he says,

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God.  For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have (1:27-30).

Paul puts all of this in terms of their status before God.  Since they are “children of God,” he lets them know that this is the central thing in his exhortation to them.  He writes:

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me (2:14-18).

The implication of these Scriptures is: because you are a Christian, then these are the things you must remember and put into practice.  As children of God, God’s people must not complain as a result of adverse circumstances in life.  Not only are God’s children not to complain or argue but they are also to maintain purity in their lives.  One cannot divorce Christian ethics and morality from the only basis from which ethics and morality derive.  One cannot separate God and ethics.  One of the reasons that Paul assigns for not complaining and arguing is that God’s people “may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe” (2:15-16).

Christians are different! Are you different?  Christians are to be different because they are children of God.  We read about one being born of the Spirit, one receiving the Spirit, one being regenerated, one being born again, or being created anew.  Yes, every Christian receives something of the divine nature.  It is in this vein that Peter says,

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Since we, as Christians, are redeemed, then Peter, as stated earlier, exhorts a change in our life style:

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.   Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good (2:1-3).

We are to do what God asks us to do.  “Do everything without complaining or arguing” (Philippians 2:14) takes us back to verses 12-13.  Every believer should commit to memory the words of Paul in verse 13: “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”    “Without complaining” is a striking statement.  One cannot but reflect upon the history of Israel, especially their deliverance from Egyptian bondage.  Paul did not cite Psalms 106, which is a history of Israel, but this verse (14) is reminiscent of this history by the Psalmist.  Paul is saying in effect that the Christian life, too, is a pilgrimage.  Paul is saying in effect that you will find as the Children of Israel did that God sometimes puts His people in places that they do not like.  In other words, there may be days in which you do not have water to quench your thirst; there may be days in which your food will not be very pleasing; there may be days in which your enemy confronts you. How are you to react to such circumstances? The Scripture says, “without complaining.”

In your walk with God, I remind each of you that it is God working in you, both to will and to do.  He is leading you and perfecting you in the process.  There may be times in which you will say, “Why me, Lord?”  When we complain we doubt.  Complaining is indicative of a lack of faith.  It leads to poor testimony; it brings disgrace upon the Christian name.  To sum up this message today, I remind each of you of the trials that Jesus endured without complaint:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:1-3). 

Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted (Matthew 4:1-11), but He did not grumble or complain.  He responded to the various temptations by citing Scripture.  You remember the accounts that record the Gethsemane episode.  Even though God led Him to Gethsemane, he never complained (26:36-56).  No wonder Paul reminded the Philippians: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

It is God who initiated this whole movement of salvation so that we may be forgiven, saved, and redeemed.  God wants sanctification for us.  First of all, He sent Jesus in order that there may be a people sanctified: “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).   The King James Version employs the word “sanctification” rather than the word “holiness.”    In Jesus one is holy because Jesus is holy.  Jesus is our “righteousness, holiness and redemption.”  Even though one is holy in Jesus, there is still what may be called progressive sanctification.  In other words, every believer is continuously doing what Paul expresses to the Philippians:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.  Only let us live up to what we have already attained.  Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body (Philippians 3:12-21).

CONCLUSION

God is holding on to you, and He will go on working in you until you have arrived at that state for which He has destined you.  I encourage each of you to “stand firm in the Lord” (4:1). As I conclude this message, I remind each of you of Paul’s final words to the Corinthians in his first epistle: “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).  Are you shining as stars in the universe?



[1] All Scripture citations are from The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984, unless stated otherwise.