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"Working Out Your Salvation"

Philippians 2:14-18


©January 21, 2001 by Rev. Bruce Goettsche

Someone has said that Christians are to be more like thermostats than thermometers. What is meant by that statement is quite simple, a thermometer reflects the temperature, a thermostat controls the temperature. Christians are to influence behavior rather than simply parrot the behavior of the world around them.

The apostle Paul has argued that as believers we are to be different from the world. Rather than being self-centered, we are to be servants. Rather than exalt ourselves we are to exalt Christ. Rather than put our hope in our efforts, we are to trust in His grace. And in the passage before us Paul continues His list of counter-culture behavior.

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. (Phil. 2:14-18)

To be really honest, when I read these words my first thought was "O man . . . !" It struck me that the apostle may have crossed the line between preaching and meddling.

The Prescription

There are several things we need to see before we can really grasp what Paul is saying to us. First, The word translated complaining or grumbling is said to be an onomatapoetic word. What that means is that the Greek word, gongusmos sounds like what it is describing. In other words, complaining and grumbling has the same kind of growling sound that the word itself has.

One of the reasons complaining is forbidden is because it stems from a feeling of discontent. It comes from a feeling that God is not doing what He should be doing. We feel we have been cheated in some fashion.

The grumbling person always sees the negative side of everything. These are the people who have memorized some of Murphy's Laws

  • Nothing is as easy as it looks; everything takes longer than you think; if anything can go wrong it will
  • Murphy was an optimist
  • The other line always moves faster
  • The chance of bread falling with the peanut butter-and-jelly side down is directly proprtional to the cost of the carpet.
  • Inside every large problem is a series of small problems struggling to get out.
  • 90% of everyting is crud
  • Whatever hits the fan will not be evenly distributed
  • No matter how long or hard you shop for an item, after you've bought it, it will be on sale somewhere cheaper.
  • Any tool dropped while repairing a car will roll underneath to the exact center.
  • The repairman will never have seen a model quite like yours before.
  • You will remember that you forgot to take out the trash when the garbage truck is two doors away.

Grumbling people are unhappy people. A person who is always grumbling is revealing that they are basically unhappy. Their behavior and their demeanor reflect their heart.

Grumbling people are annoying people. These folks have the marvelous ability to suck the life out of any party. After you talk to a grumbling person for very long you feel exhausted.

Paul also says we should do all without arguing. The word for arguing is the word dialogismos. It's the same word from which we get our word dialog. The text may refer to arguing with each other, but it probably refers to arguing with God. And this is what makes arguing so sinful.

When we argue with God we presume that we know better than He does what is right to do. When we argue with God we are involved in a coup of sorts.

Notice that Paul doesn't just say that we should try not to complain when life gets difficult. He says that we are to do everything without complaining or arguing. Let that sink in for a minute. There are lots of things we can do without complaining and arguing . . . but everything? That is like saying that you have to give up all sweets. You may have no trouble giving up many of the sweets . . . but there might very well be some sweets that we can't give up.

If words mean anything it means we should

  • do necessary chores without complaining
  • do distasteful tasks without complaining
  • do frustrating tasks without complaining
  • face difficult circumstances without complaining

I know your next question, "Why?" Some people realize that if they obeyed this command then they wouldn't have anything to say at all!

The Rationale

Paul gives us a reason for being positive, trusting people. The first reason is that this kind of attitude is essential to spiritual growth. Do you hear that? You cannot become blameless, pure or without fault as long as you are a complainer! Ouch!

Paul says our goal in life is to become blameless. The word refers to our relationship with others. When we are blameless it means that others have nothing against us.

Purity refers to our heart. When we are pure it means we are not only doing the right things (blameless) we are doing them for the right reasons (pure)

Second when we don't grumble or argue we become a beacon in a dark and dreary world. We are told that we want to be without fault in a crooked and depraved generation.

without fault in a crooked (skoleeos) and depraved (to distort) generation

you will shine like stars (Mattew 5:14-16)

as you hold out the Word of Life

In Order That . . . .

Paul connected their continuing in the faith with his own accountability before the Lord.

The image here is not improbably taken from light-houses on a seacoast. The image then is, that as those light-houses are placed on a dangerous coast to apprise vessels of their peril, and to save them from shipwreck, so the light of Christian piety shines on a dark world, and in the dangers of the voyage which we are making (Albert Barnes )

I woke up early today, excited over all I get to do before the clock strikes midnight. I have responsibilities to fulfill today. I am important. My job is to choose what kind of day I am going to have.

Today I can complain because the weather is rainy or I can be thankful that the grass is getting watered for free.

Today I can feel sad that I don't have more money or I can be glad that my finances encourage me to plan my purchases wisely and guide me away from waste.

Today I can grumble about my health or I can rejoice that I am alive.

Today I can lament over all that my parents didn't give me when I was growing up or I can feel grateful that they allowed me to be born.

Today I can cry because roses have thorns or I can celebrate that thorns have roses.

Today I can mourn my lack of friends or I can excitedly embark upon a quest to discover new relationships.

Today I can whine because I have to go to work or I can shout for joy because I have a job to do.

Today I can complain because I have to go to school or eagerly open my mind and fill it with rich new tidbits of knowledge.

Today I can murmur dejectedly because I have to do housework or I can feel honored because I've been provided shelter for my mind and body.

Today stretches ahead of me, waiting to be shaped.

And here I am, the sculptor who gets to do the shaping.

What today will be like is up to me.

I get to choose what kind of day I will have!

Have a GREAT DAY . . . unless you have other plans."

[Mikey's Funnies]

©January 21, 2001 by Rev. Bruce Goettsche, LaHarpe, IL. 61450

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