A Spiritual Workout (2): No Grumbling
A Spiritual Workout (2): No Grumbling! (Phil. 2:14-15) August 12, 2018 Read Phil 2:14-15: This instruction didn’t come out of left field. It has context. V. 12: “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Work out your own salvation – live up to the family name. You’re a child of God; act like it! Great. But the devil is in the details, right? You don’t want to be like the cowboy who showed up with a dachshund trailing behind. Someone asked, “Why the dachshund?” He said, “Somebody told me to get a long little doggy!” Not quite what they meant. The devil is in the details! So, Paul could have said a lot of things about how to work out your own salvation. But he gets specific given the problem that’s cropping up in Philippi. He’s heading toward 4:2, where he will urge Euodia and Syntyche to “agree in the Lord.” But he is building such a case they’ll say “Uncle” before he even gets there! So here’s one more case for unity as a way to work out your salvation – and the detail is – No grumbling and No disputing! I. The Requirement 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” The detail. “Quit griping and fighting.” “All things” is in emphatic. “Do (pres) all things without complaint or dispute. Not some things – all things. Does anyone hear Mom’s voice here? I do. As the oldest of 11 kids, grumbling and fighting was a constant around our house. “His hamburger is bigger than mine!” “How come he got to go swimming?” “Jon is wearing my socks – again.” Mom would’ve taken a little relief. Paul wants it all gone in all things – all the time! My brothers and I had a little quartet when we were kids. One of our most requested songs was “The Grumblers Song.” “In country, town or city, some people can be found / Who spend their lives in grumbling, at everything around. / Oh, yes, they always grumble, no matter what we say, / For these are chronic grumblers and they grumble night and day. / O they grumble on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, grumble on Thursday, too. Grumble on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, grumble the whole week through. They grumble at their husbands; they grumble at their wives. They grumble at their children; It is their way of life. They grumble at their parents; they grumble at the school. They grumble at their teacher; And they grumble at all rules. They grumble in the city; they grumble on the farm. They grumble at their neighbors; they think it is no harm. They grumble when it’s raining; they grumble when it’s dry. They grumble all the year round; and they grumble till they die. Humorous? Sure! We laugh and then the fatal mistake -- we all assume it’s someone else. But it’s not. It’s not your neighbor or the guy down the street or the one sitting next to you this morning. It’s you – and it’s me. Someone else may be worse – but we’re all guilty; we all think it is justified in our case. It’s toxic. And Paul commands – “Stop it. All the time. Never justified.” A bunch of chickens running around a farm with missing feathers – some with open sores on their skin. The farmer explained: “Oh, they like to peck at one another.” One pecks; the other pecks back. God hates that. Gal 5:15: “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” What goes around comes around. Play that game and you’ll get yours sooner or later. But a better reason to give it up – because Jesus asks you to. “Work out your own salvation – by not grumbling and fighting.” II. The Rebellious Context So, what drives disputes? First, the flesh! -- our natural tendency to complain and enter disputes from our own internal workings – the flesh, the old man, indwelling sin. That old guy is still around protecting his own interests which means conflict and grumbling. But 2nd is the world! The Philippians lived ““in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation”, and – so do we! “Crooked and twisted” could mean a lot of things. But in this context it means people who grumble and fight. That’s an unconscious challenge to God’s goodness! “Crooked and twisted” refers to Moses’ last speech where he says of older Israelites: Deut 32:5: “They have dealt corruptly with him [God]; they are no longer his children because they are blemished; they are a crooked and twisted generation.” And what was the primary offense – the orgy at the golden calf? A murderous rampage? Sexual immorality? No – their crime was they were the all-time great grumblers! All-time, all-stars! That got them labeled “crooked and twisted” by God. They doubted God’s goodness after He performed some of the greatest miracles in history to save them from slavery in Egypt. They focused on today’s problem rather than eternity’s promise. They missed the big picture for a trivial problem. It’s all over Exod and Numbers. Exod 16:2 And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.” Num 14:2 And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness!” -- a wish God granted them! Num 16:41 41 The congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and against Aaron, saying, “You have killed the people of the Lord.” . . . 44 and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 45 “Get away from the midst of this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.” Listen, Beloved, we think of grumbling and little infighting as minor offenses. Not God. He knows that chronic complaining creates twisted people. Paul’s putting a choice to the Philippians: “You can either shine as lights among a crooked and twisted world by not complaining; or you can become part of a twisted and perverse generation by complaining. It’s door # 1 or door # 2? And if you consistently choose # 2, it may show you don’t even have saving faith. You’re not working out your own salvation – bc you don’t have any! That’s how serious this is.” Paul knows giving way to a little innocent grumbling and complaining introduces a toxic poison that destroys the whole. A tabloid headline in England in 1994 read: “Killer Bug Ate My Face.” It reported 7 cases of a strep A bacteria (not = to strep throat) that invades a body. Necrotizing faciitis begins which means the flesh starts to die at an incredible rate of several inches per hour. Eventually toxic shock causes the organs to shut down and death ensues. Chronic grumbling and disputes may not work as fast, but they are just as deadly as Israel found out. Grumbling and disputing can only happen in a context of challenge against God’s goodness. III. The Reason Why no grumbling or infighting? 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation.” This is mature Xn living. Blameless, innocent, children of God, without blemish. This is top-shelf incentive, and Paul is saying we can’t get there unless we eliminate the complaints and disputes. If we expect to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, these have to go. “Blameless” isn’t sinless perfection, not in this life. It means “above reproach” – no charge would be sustainable against this person or church. Daniel is a perfect example. When his enemies hoped to find something against him – some disloyalty to the king, some manipulation of the books, some underhanded dealing – they could find nothing. Dan 6:5: "We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.” Their only hope to deep-six him was to make it illegal to follow God. That’s a high standard, and you can’t get there if you are more interested in disputes and grumbling than in the things of God. “Innocent” means unmixed. Pure. 100% gold. No alloy. No mixed motives. No saying, “I want Christ,” while acting selfishly! No hypocrites. Alex Strauch tells of a friend, Brian, who installed a computer system for a man. But the guy said he couldn’t pay. Brian said he was the most unreasonable, mean-spirited person he’d ever dealt with. One day he asked, “What is your business?” The guy replied, “It’s a conflict management organization!” Brian thought, “Really – conflict management? And you won’t even talk about a payment plan?!” That must not be us who are part of God’s family! The world is crooked; we are to be straight and blameless. But when we’re at odds with each other, we’re not very straight! We’ve got mixed motives. That’s why Paul says, “15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God.” He’s not saying we are to become children of God; he’s reminding us who we already are. So live like it! The children of Allan and Twyla McNeff got into a lot of fights. And occasionally we did some grumbling – altho Mom didn’t let that go for long. We were doing what comes naturally. But children of God have the power to avoid what comes naturally – to live by faith – to realize we don’t have to fix every perceived wrong and win every argument. God’s children have a great Father. Our standing as a child of God is way too high to tarnish with the complaints and disputes that we sometimes enter into. This actually happened in a courtroom one day. A divorce attorney asked a woman, “Do you and my client have any kids together?” She answered, “We do – twin boys.” The lawyer then asked, “And is my client the father of both of those children?” Well, we are! Children of the same Father. To respect and love each other, rather than devouring one another, is the least that our Father expects. Acting like who we are – children of God. That’s the reason for no grumbling and disputes. They give a false representation of the family. IV. The Result Here is the ultimate motivation behind avoiding complaints and grumbling and disputes -- 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 in the world.” Listen, as believers in Jesus Christ, our eternal destiny is settled – once and for all, right? Phil 3:20: “But our citizenship is in heaven.” We’re already citizens of heaven and that’s now our final destination. So why doesn’t God just snatch us there the minute we’re saved? Why leave us here to deal with this messy life? Well, there are a lot of reasons for that, but one of the main ones is in Mt 3:8: “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” That fruit takes many forms – the fruit of the Spirit, being lived out in a life characterized by “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). A true Xn existence will look like this more and more. But this fruit is not just for my own happiness. It’s also intended to show off the gospel, by word and deed, to others who do not know Christ. To give them opportunity to accept Him as well. To lead them to the fruit of repentance as well. So when we give up the grumbling and begin to live like children of God, we “shine as lights in the world.” That’s ultimately what this is about – it’s a way to show the world a God who loves them; a Savior who died for them and a Father who can give them hope and meaning in the midst of a “crooked and twisted generation” that can offer nothing like that. Simply obeying His command to “do all things without grumbling or disputing” will make us shine like neon lights in a very dark world. That’s worth pursuing, isn’t it? Why does that make us lights? I’ll tell you why. The reason our generation is crooked and twisted is the same as it’s always been – ultimately people put their own interests above those of others. We’re like the Long Ranger and Tonto when the Indians had them surrounded and were about to capture and torture them. The Lone Ranger turns to Tonto and asks, “What shall we do now, Tonto?” And Tonto says, “What you mean “we” Kemosasbe?” Our old nature will always look out for ourselves first. That’s what grumbling and disputes are all about – me first. It takes a regenerated person to say, “No – it’s not going to be about me. It’s going to be about Him.” And it is that selfless devotion to each other and Christ that flips the switch that allows us to shine as selfless lights in a selfish world. That’s what Jesus was encouraging when He said in Mt 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Listen, no Xn has an excuse for not being involved in evangelism. The best evangelism there is is showing patience, kindness, tolerance and love to one another. Jn 13:34: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The world has been given the right to judge us – by how we love one another. And stopping the complaining and disputes is one primary way to do that – giving up our rights for the sake of His – and doing it gracefully. Conc – C. S. Lewis said, “Don’t waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you love someone, you will presently come to love him." So here’s the application. We need to think of someone that we have grumbled about or disputed with. Figure out some way we can reach out to them in a loving way and see what God will do. They are His children, too, just like we are. And I assure you, when it comes to this, little things count. So how can we act like it? Ken Sande tells of how he had a dispute with his wife one day, and before it was resolved she asked him to run to the grocery store to pick up a few small items – something he didn’t like to do. He was grudgingly pushing his cart down the aisle when he noticed some coffee his wife loved to drink. He thought, “Too bad for her that she was unkind to me or I’d have gotten that.” But then he realized how really un-Christ-like that thought was – how unworthy of a child of God. He picked up the can – just to check the price. But then he says, “My resentment soon melted away, and I was overwhelmed with love for my wife and a desire to see her face light up as I gave her this gift. Needless to say, we were completely reconciled shortly after I returned home.” That can happen all over our homes, our church and our community. Just a question of whether we will live like who we are in Christ – or who we were in the flesh. Let’s pray.