Philippians 2:12-16 12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. 14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”[c] Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.
In Philippians 2:14 and 15 Paul tells us to do everything without grumbling and arguing so that we can become blameless and pure children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Let’s work our way backwards.
Can we agree we live in a warped and crooked generation? I looked up the definition for the word, “warped” and it said, “bent or twisted out of shape, typically as a result of the effects of heat or damp, abnormal or strange; distorted.
There has been great distortion and bending and twisting of truth which has caused this world to be warped. When you walk away from God as truth, you are choosing a bent, twisted, distorted path. If you are walking a twisted path, and I am walking a twisted path, how can we expect to walk together?
I know in my lifetime how twisted things have become. It is sometimes impossible to reason with people because they have departed from truth. Without truth, there is no reason or ability to reason. Those who are a generation ahead of me remember there was a time when the majority of Americans held that God is truth and that God’s Word is truth. That didn’t mean there wasn’t deviation from it; there was. Evil has existed in every generation, but now there has been a departure from the Bible as the starting point for truth, and as a result, our world is warped.
Pastor Jed made this comment to me this week: Everyone is trading truth for position. There is little value placed on telling the truth or promoting the truth anymore. If I can misquote you or twist your words, if I can skew what really happened to advance my agenda, I can gain power and position. That’s warped. That is contrary to the way the Kingdom of God works.
Masses of people are being emotionally hijacked and held hostage by politicians and media outlets who aren’t interested in the truth, but who are seeking viewership and control.
An estimated 30 million boys, girls, young men and women have been sold as slaves to use for the perverted pleasure of other people. Human trafficking is a sick industry of abuse and slavery, an unimaginable way of life that takes in more than an estimated 150 billion dollars a year. When someone can justify doing that to someone else, to enslaving them, overpowering and torturing them, literally taking their lives while they live to simply use them for a moment of pleasure, that is warped.
When people live with an entitlement mentality, thinking the world owes them something rather than the converse which is that we are all here to make a positive difference in the world, that is warped.
Encouraging, allowing or supporting children to undergo gender reassignment surgery or to identify in a way that is contrary to their biology is warped.
Educational teaching under the guise of compassion and inclusion that promote lifestyles and ideologies that ask for us to accept that which God has said is sin is warped.
People who justify multiple sexual partners, even within marriage because it will get them out of a rut or spice things up is warped.
We live in a world where I see Satan at work to promote the “rights” of groups of people who are living to please self while suppressing the rights of the church to live to please God. That is warped.
We see rioters and those perpetrating violence in our streets being given a pass as we are told they are expressing their freedom of speech. That is warped.
I saw online that there are now 64 terms for gender and identity expression. That’s warped. The Bible declares there are two. No wonder people are confused!
I could go on, but I think we can agree we live in a warped generation. Paul says that against this backdrop we are to shine like stars in the universe. Good news. This is a wonderful opportunity. Stars shine brightest when it is dark! Stars stand out when the darkness is pervasive. They provide a contrast. They provide a compass. They catch your attention. Don’t lament what is, get excited over what could be!
Paul gives us two ways we can shine. He says that we can shine by displaying the right attitudes and we can shine by holding on to the Word of God.
Let’s talk first about displaying the right attitudes.
The Right Attitudes-Verse 14 says, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing.”
Since before Easter I have been emphasizing the life of Christ and what it means to have the life of Christ inside of us and how important it is that His life is expressed in and through our lives. How we do what we do is just as important as what we do. Paul says don’t be a whiner. Don’t be argumentative.
Paul said in I Thessalonians 5:18 that we are supposed to give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God for us in Christ Jesus. Giving thanks in all circumstances is the will of God. Could it be that when we grumble or when we argue, we have temporarily lost sight of the will of God in some situation?
There is always something God wants us to accomplish no matter where we are and no matter what we are experiencing because of what is going on around us. Complaining and arguing diminishes our light. It clouds up our witness. It covers the life of Christ. Jesus was so devoted to the will of God, that He said it was His food. He was constantly focused on discerning and doing the will of God, and He wasn’t going to whine or argue about what God wanted Him to accomplish.
The word, “complaining,” here in verse 14 is gongusmos. It almost sounds like a complaint itself. “Gongusmos.” Grrrr. I hate this. That is stupid. This is lame. This is so dumb. Why do I have to be the one to do this? Gongusmos. When we approach our circumstances with that attitude, how do we think we can shine? That attitude repels people. If the way we act doesn’t draw people to us it certainly can’t draw them to Christ.
Do you understand where Paul was when he penned those words? He was in prison. His life was difficult. He was in chains, and yet His purpose continued. He was determined to shine. He was determined to advance the Gospel.
He said in Philippians 1:27, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
Whatever happens. As you look back over your week, can you say you conducted yourself in a manner that was worthy of the Gospel of Christ in every situation? When that person cut you off in traffic, did your attitude reflect grace? When you ran into traffic that slowed you down, was your spirit controlled by the peace of Christ? When you approached that friend to talk something through, was honoring Jesus your goal? When the server brought the wrong food to your table or when you went through the drive-thru and it wasn’t Sprite Zero Grape that you didn’t find out about until you got home, how did you handle it? (Asking for a friend)
When that friend sent a cutting text, how loving was your response? When that teacher threw in an extra assignment, were you thankful for the opportunity to learn more? When someone tossed out a dig at you, when you were asked to do something extra, when that appliance broke, how did you handle it? Did you conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the Gospel? As you posted on your social media, did you do so with a “what would Jesus think” mentality?
I think Paul helps us see that when we complain and argue with people we are adding to the darkness of this world. The last thing a believer needs to be is a contributor to the darkness.
This life will always give us a reason to complain, but God says, instead Take every opportunity to shine. God says, “Don’t show your frustration to the world. Show Me to the world!”
Let me talk for one more second about the second piece of Paul’s admonition. We are to do everything without arguing. I’m not talking about stating facts. I’m not discouraging education or correction. Arguing has a different tone entirely. Arguing only escalates and grows a conflict.
James has something to say on this subject. He says that arguments aren’t the result of what other people say or do, but that they have their origin inside of us: “Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves.” James 4:1 (MSG)
Being argumentative, James says, is a sign of wanting our own way. Listen, for the sake of Christ and the advancement of the Kingdom of God, there are many times when it is far more advantageous to walk away than get our way in an argument.
Conversations are helpful. Opinions can be helpful. Stating the truth is instructive, but
Arguing with the world will be fruitless because you cannot convince someone of something they have not first been convicted by.
Paul told Timothy in II Timothy 4:5 to keep his head in all situations. In order for the life of Christ to be revealed in us, we have to maintain the attitude of Christ which is why Paul told us earlier in Philippians 2 that our attitude had to be like Jesus’ attitude. Jesus had a humble attitude, one of a servant. He had the mindset that He would be committed to the will of God over His own way in every circumstance.
So, not only do we need to display the right attitudes in order to shine, but we also need to hold onto the Word of God, verse 16. Paul called it the Word of Life here.
I saw a movie recently that was based on a true story. It was about a family who vacationed in Thailand, and while they were there they were hit by a tsunami. Next to the Passion of the Christ, it was the hardest movie I have ever watched, so I’m not suggesting you get your popcorn ready for some light entertainment. I actually had to fast-forward quite a bit through it. In the wake of the terrible storm that decimated the area, the mother and her oldest son wound up near each other, alive, in rushing water. What they had just been through was horrific, but the thought of trying to survive it again if another episode was behind the first, well, it was more than they could deal with. They went into survival mode. How could they survive another strike? They determined they would only survive if they sought higher ground, if they climbed a tree and held on. If they could perch themselves on higher ground, in between tree branches and hold on, they could survive another storm.
Listen, Church. The Bible is the way to higher ground. Hold onto it, and don’t let go for anything. When the storms of life hit, call on the promises of God. Read through the Psalms to help you deal with your emotional disappointments and stresses. Let the Holy Spirit come alive in fresh and new ways as God speaks to you. Reading the Word of God will put you safely in the arms of God where you can be held and reassured until the storm passes.
The Word of God has a sweetness about it. It will make the bitter moments better. Psalm 119:103 says, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
If the Bible says to do something, do it as fast as you can. Declare the Word over your life. Teach it to your children. Share it with your friends. The Word of God will never steer your wrong. Your life will never go off track by listening to and obeying the Word of God. The Bible is a living document. God will speak to you about your life as you spend time in it. It is relevant in every generation. It is comprehensive and even convenient as you can carry it on your phone. If you want to know how to deal with disappointment, read the Word. If you need insight on how to overcome temptation, go to the Word. If you need encouragement or direction, open the book. Wanna know how to deal with your money? It’s there. Wondering what your life’s purpose is all about? Find out through the Word. The Bible isn’t just the story of history. It is your story. It is my story. History is still being made, and the Word is still informing all things that are happening today.
Read and study it so that you can have discernment when you are being tested or when you hear something misquoted or twisted to support evil, you will know how to take a stand against it. Hold it in high esteem. Don’t let anyone tell you it is a myth or a fairy tale or a nice book about a nice man who showed us a nice way to live as if it was a book of suggestions. No, it is authoritatively supreme. It is commanding and powerful. It is a Sword with which to fight off Satan and all demonic forces. It will bring recovery, renewal, and reward to your life.
A walk worthy of the Gospel is a walk that is in obedience to the Word of God. There is no way to know if you are conducting yourself in a manner worthy of the Gospel apart from reading the Word of God. It’s the pages of Scripture that inform our conduct. And people who live by the Word, Paul says, they shine. They are distinguished. They reflect the life of Christ.
It is increasingly hard to shine when is seems our enemy is working overtime to try to extinguish the light of Christ on the earth. We know he is fighting a losing battle because “Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world.” (I John 4:4) Satan’s attempt to blanket the earth with darkness is just preparation for our lights to shine even brighter.
Paul said some things to Timothy in I Timothy 3 that I see lining up with our current time: 3 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power.
Isn’t he describing our warped world? That list is describing the darkness to a T. How do we overcome such darkness? We do it first of all by shining the light of Jesus that is in us, by living counter-culture to the darkness. That last part… “having a form of godliness but denying its power.” Isn’t that descriptive of our now? People say they are “spiritual.” I want to say, “Spiritually what?” Because a person can only be spiritually dead or spiritually alive. There is no other way to exist. We’ve got to shine the light on this truth, friends. The life of Christ, deposited into a person, makes a radical difference that people ought to be able to see if our lights are shining. People need us to demonstrate more than morality. They need us to demonstrate vitality as the life of Jesus is put on display.
And Paul ended the same chapter, the one that started out by describing the warped world, he ended it by telling Timothy to hold on to the Word. Look at it:
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Continue to be convinced by the Word. Continue to give it supremacy in your life.
You want to be a difference-maker? You want to make the world a brighter place in which to live? You want the life of Jesus to be easier for people to see and desire? Shine the light by living with the right attitudes and actions and by holding up and holding onto the Word of God.