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Title: Shine Brightly
Intro: Several years ago we headed out to the Smokey mountains for our December vacation, but we didn't get far when the warning light for our battery came on. I pulled into Advance Auto in Madisonville to get it checked. Sure enough, it was bad. While they were installing a new battery, I noticed the mother of all flashlights. It's the kind that Tim Taylor would be proud of. It was on sale and I had to have it. It put out a whopping 5 million lumens. There's a warning on its label about not pointing it toward someone's eyes.
I have with me up here several different types of flashlights. They are all different, but their function are all the same. Their purpose is simple, to produce light and nothing more. Producing light is what they do, but this is also true of Jesus. Jesus said in , am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.
We know He didn't mean that He was a human flashlight, so what did He mean? A light's purpose is to illuminate the surroundings so that we can see the physical world around us. Without physical light we would be unable to see ourselves, our families, and the world we live in.
In Jesus' case, He provides, not physical light, but spiritual light. He enables us to see the spiritual world that is otherwise invisible to us. He enables us, in a sense, to see God. He told Phillip in , “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
Jesus enables us to know God, the Father, to know what He's like and to know His will for our lives.
Jesus also enables us to see our spiritual condition. He enables us to see that we are sinners, separated from God, facing damnation, and in need of a savior. He basically shines spiritual light on our spiritual condition. However, according to Jesus, He is not the only one who provides spiritual light in this world. In the Sermon on the Mount He told His disciples, You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden ().
You might say this large 5 million lumen flashlight represents Jesus, and these other flashlights represents different Christians. We who are Christians are lights in two different ways. First, we are followers of Jesus. We are to pattern our lives after Jesus. This means we will be so different we will stand out like a bright light on a dark night. Secondly, we are to speak truth. We are to stand for what is right and confront that which is wrong based on the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit uses righteous living and words of truth to convict those who are living in sin. It's why we are often criticized and persecuted for simply speaking the truth and living according to the truth.
Paul encourages the Christians at Philippi to live in such a way so they shine as lights in the world. In our text today Paul urges the Philippians to shine as lights and he tells them how to do it. But these words are not just for them, they are also for us. They are for our instruction, for our good.
Please turn to the book of Philippians, chapter 2, verses 12-18. Page 1248 in the pew bibles.
There are certain truths in this passage that we need to grasp. Paul wants the Philippians to realize their role in salvation, have a good understanding of their salvation, be encouraged by the support given to them in regards to their salvation, be willing to accept their responsibilities that accompany their salvation, and to stay focused on the reward that salvation will ultimately bring them.
First, their role.
I. Their Role in Salvation
Look at verse 12 of our text. 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…
Two things stand out in this verse, the words obeyed and work out. The Philippians had obeyed the instructions given to them by Paul when he was in their presence. Paul was working under the inspiration of God. God had chosen him to write most of the New Testament. He would start many of the churches in the infancy of Christianity. The people of Philippi seemed to sense this.
Paul wants them to realize the role they must play in their salvation. This is true for all Christians. We have a role to fulfill. We have specific things that we are to do if we want our Christianity, our salvation, to produce the fruits God wants, we want, and the world needs. The first thing they and we must do, is believe and obey God. Christians have to believe and obey the Word of God. We can no more fill our role assigned by God, if we don't believe and obey God's word, than we can fly an airplane, yet refusing to accept and obey the instructions provided by the aircraft company that built the plane.
He tells them they need to obey and work out their salvation. But what does it mean work out. it doesn't mean working to earn their salvation. It means applying it to their lives. It means tapping into the power that is made available through salvation. It means searching out the truths of God's Word and then, by faith, acting on it. It means learning what God wants from us by Bible study, being a part of a Bible class, and learning from other Christians.
Sadly, many are giving up on Christianity and religion as a whole because they have had a bad experience. They may have failed to experience the life changing effects that Christianity promises. The problem, however, is not that Christianity doesn't work or that Christ's power is not effective. The problem is that many of us don't know the role we are to play in the overall plan of God, and others simply choose not to fill the role God has laid out for them.
In William Barclay's commentary, he writes, The great tragedy of so many of us is that we are never really any further on. We continue to be victims of the same habits, slaves of the same temptations and guilty of the same failures. But the truly Christian life must be a continual progress, for it is a journey towards God.
Listen to me. Don't give up on Christ and the Christian faith. Instead of giving up, get serious about it. Get involved. Get into the Word. Find out what your role is as a believers and then work at it. Put time into it. Be willing to sacrifice a few things for it. Come to church even when it's not convenient. Take notes during the message. Join a Sunday School class. Come for our Wednesday night Bible study.
We are to live a life of obedience and put some effort into it, which means to work out your salvation, for we are the lights of the world, according to Jesus.
But we also need a good understanding of our salvation. When Paul says they should work out their salvation in fear and trembling, he is basically urging them to have a good understanding of their salvation. If we truly grasp the seriousness of salvation, there will be some fear and trembling.
II. Their Understanding of Salvation
In his later years Billy Graham was asked if he ever felt nervous and fearful when preaching before crowds numbering in the tens and hundreds of thousands. He said every time I speak I tremble because I understand that without Christ people will spend eternity in hell and this book that I preach from has the only hope for them. I want to do the best I can and I don't want to disappoint my Savior.
Remember, this letter was written to believers, so this fear and trembling isn't that of fearing the wrath of God or the damnation of hell, it's more a fear of disappointing the One who died for you, the One who saved you from hell. Of course, for the unsaved, there should be a fear of hell and damnation. The prospect of hell should create fear in the strongest and bravest of people.
Now let me ask you, do you understand the salvation of God? God makes it clear. Sin has separated us from God. This means our sins must be paid for, either by us, or by casting them on Jesus and letting Him pay for them by way of His death on the cross. To cast our sins on Jesus, we must trust in Him as the Son of God, who died for our sins and rose triumphantly from the grave. To trust Him with our sins and our salvation, our faith in Him must be real, it must be a total trust, a trust that commits us to Him as our Lord and Savior.
Understanding salvation is to understand that Jesus is the only way of salvation. There are no short cuts to heaven. There are no alternate routes to heaven. There are no man-made roads to heaven. We can't do enough good deeds, attend church enough, pray enough, or give enough to earn our way into heaven. All we can do is come to Jesus. All we can do is put our faith in Jesus. All we can do is surrender our lives to Jesus.
states, For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. If we truly grasp all that Christ has done for us, the love He has shown us, the mercy He has bestowed on us, we cannot help but want to be the best we can for Him, thus at times we may find ourselves in fear and trembling when temptations come. Yes, we should fear and tremble at the thought of letting Him down, of sinning against Him, of disappointing Him.
A good understanding of our salvation will make us love Christ more and more, and it should instill in us a fear of failing Him.
Along with the role they are to fulfill, Paul tells them about the support that comes with salvation. Paul points this out to the Philippians in verse 13, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
III. Their Support in Salvation
According to verse 13 it is God who works in them, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Oh, how we need to know this. Every Christian, but especially new Christians, need to know this. It is God, not we that provide our salvation. It is God, not we who enable us to live the Christian life. Salvation is all about God and Christ.
We are saved because God reached out to us. We are saved because God gave us the faith to believe in Christ. We are saved because God and Christ made a means by which our sins could be paid for and we could be forgiven. It is all about God in both the saving and in the living of the Christian life.
After we come to faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit indwells us. This is what is meant by Jesus being in us. Consequently, the power of God resides in us, and is available to us. The Bible in the New Living translation puts it this way, I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms" ( NLT)
This prayer I just read is from the apostle Paul on behalf of the Christians at Ephesus. He is praying that they might understand the greatness of God's power toward them who believe in Him. He says that this power that is available is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him back in heaven at the right hand of God.
If we will do our part in learning, obeying, and submitting to Christ, we can experience the power of God to live the Christian life. Just because most Christians don't tap into this power, doesn't mean you can't. It's available to all believers. The problem is that way too many are either satisfied where they're at, unaware of what they could have, or they simply refuse to accept their role in their salvation. But it is possible for any and all believers to access this power. The Bible doesn't lie. Listen to some of its statements about what we can do by way of the power of Christ.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us ().
I can do all things through him who strengthens me ().
Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world ().
God is saying in these verses and many more like them, you have the power to live the Christian life. You don't have to give into temptation. You don't have to be mastered by habits and bad attitudes. You can live a godly, Christ honoring life, overcoming life.
Having assured them of the support, or power of God to do the impossible, Paul then tells them about the responsibilities that comes with salvation.
IV. Their Responsibilities in Salvation
Look at verses 14-16 of our text. 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.
In this passage Paul lays out certain responsibilities that every Christian should accept. He tells them what to do, why they should do it, and how to do it. First, let's look at the reason they should work out their salvation by living a certain way. They are to shine brightly.
A. Shine Brightly
He says in verses 14 and 15, 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.
They are to shine as lights in the world. We've already seen that Jesus has said we are the light of the world. If we don't shine, the world will stay in darkness. If we don't shine, the world will never see, know, or be saved by Jesus. If we don't shine, our friends, neighbors, and loved ones will never be saved.
The Christian life is not about living the good life, being blessed out of our shoes, and rejoicing all the way to heaven. It's all about laying up our treasures in heaven. It's all about bringing people, especially those people we love the most, those we treasure the most, into a saving relationship with Christ.
Since the only thing we can take to heaven with us is people, I believe Jesus is most likely talking about the people we treasure that will be laid up in heaven.
But what does Paul mean by shining brightly? He tells us in those verses. He says don't be a whiner or complainer.
B. Don't be a Whiner
Let's look at that again. He says, 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. The New Living Translation bible puts it this way, Do everything without complaining and arguing.
Have you even known a whiner, someone who is always whining about this or that. They're never satisfied with what people do or how they do it. Whiners are people who are unhappy, dissatisfied, and demanding. They want everything their way.
This is not the Christian way. Christians are to be peaceful, accommodating, and easy to get along with. Just as Christ willingly put others ahead of Himself, so should believers do the same. Only by living a life that is void of such complaining and whining can we be blameless and innocent.
Not complaining and grumbling is a good start, but as believers we are to live our lives rightly.
C. Live Rightly
We need to live in such a way that others, even non-Christians cannot find fault with us. For by doing so we are viewed as being children of God who have no blemishes or defects. It's not just that we should avoid sin, we need to also live rightly. We need to even avoid the appearance of evil. There are places believers should not go, things believers should not do, and shows and video games that believers should not watch or play, not because there is a Bible verse that forbids it, but because some would Question whether a believer should take part in them.
Living the Christian life is more than avoiding sin, it also about living rightly. It's also about doing the right things, not just avoiding the sinful things in life.
But how are we to live rightly and avoid grumbling and complaining, we do it by holding fast tot eh Word of God.
D. Hold Fast to the Word
There is power in the Word of God. It can warn us. It can lift us. It can strengthen us. The psalmist said in , Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble. And in we read, How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.
We can live rightly, without complaining and grumbling, if we hold fast to the Word of God.
The Word of God contains a power that will protect us if we will hold fast to it. This means holding fast to its teachings and instructions. The writer of Hebrews says, For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account ().
If you haven't already, pick up one of our free daily bible calendars and begin reading the Bible through this year. Even if you can't get it read through by year's end, you will have digested a lot of God's Word and you will be the better for it.
Why should we do all these things because the reward of salvation will be waiting for us in heaven.
V. Their Reward in Salvation
In the last two verses Paul speaks to the reward of salvation. He writes that they should hold 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.
The words, in the day of Christ, refers to return of Christ. The final judgment that will take place. On that day all the labor and suffering for Christ will be justified. On that day the believers will rejoice and the non-believers will realize the foolishness of their lives.
The glory of heaven will outshine all the troubles and sufferings of this life. But this will only be true for those who have Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Conclusion: Paul is not the only Christian to have gladly given his life for Christ.
Ignatius (67-110) was ordered by the emperor to be arrested and was sentenced to be thrown to the wild beasts in Rome.
He longed for giving his life for his savior, saying, "May the wild beasts be eager to rush upon me. If they be unwilling, I will compel them. Come , crowds of wild beasts, come, tearing and mangling, wracking of bones and hacking of limbs, come, cruel tortures of the devil, only let me attain unto Christ" Polycarp was the last to be taught personally by the apostles. He was arrested and brought into an amphitheater filled with a great multitude of people. Wood was collected and made into a pile. Polycarp asked not to be fastened to the stake. "Leave me thus", he said. He who strengthens me to endure the flames will also enable me to stand firm at the stake without being fastened with nails". The woodpile was lighted. While Polycarp prayed with a loud voice, "Lord God Almighty, Father of our lord Jesus Christ, I praise thee that thou hast judged me worthy of this day and of this hour, to participate in the number of thy witnesses, and in the cup of thy Christ", the flames consumed him. Polycarp's martyr death took place in the year 156. Justin Martyr(100-166) was scourged and beheaded in Rome with 6 other Christians. His last words were:' We desire nothing more than to suffer for our Lord Jesus Christ, for this gives us salvation and joyfulness before his dreadful judgment seat."
These men knew what they had in Christ and gladly gave their lives for the sake of Christ, and shined brightly to the very end. There are lots of ways we can shine for Christ, so if you're a Christian you have a role to fulfill, so go out there and shine brightly. If you're not a Christian, you can be. Just trust in Jesus and let Him have control of your life.
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