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HOW TO BE A STAR Philippians 2:14-18 October 25, 2009 Given by: Pastor Rich Bersett [Index of Past Messages] Introduction During obedience school, two pit bulls are hanging around the kennel at recess. One says to the other: “That’s the thing I hate about obedience school – you learn all this stuff you’re never going to use in the real world.” I’ve been studying these first 18 verses of Philippians 2 now for several weeks as I’ve been preparing to teach from them, and you can add to that the enormous amount of time I’ve spent studying these verses through 38 years of ministry, and a few years as a young Christian before that. And more than ever I am now of the opinion that one of the biggest problems we have as believers is we are not serious enough about obedience. I’ve simply come to this inescapable conclusion that, for whatever reasons, our obedience does not match up with our faith. And, quite frankly, that’s a dangerous sign. 1. A Deepening Obedience     Faith = Obedience (Romans 1:5; James 2:14-18) Back in Romans 1:5 Paul said that he and the others with him had received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to “the obedience of faith,” or “the obedience that comes from faith.” I think sometimes we’re so afraid of talking about works in relation to our salvation because we’re not really convinced of two things. We’re not really convinced that faith and obedience are tightly connected. And we’re not sure that it is God who empowers the obedience and good works we do as His servants—we still believe we have to do it. And, if it is we who are generating the good works, then of course it is wrong to attach good works to faith and salvation, because we are well-taught that we are saved by faith and not by works. Sometimes I wonder if we have the right answers, but the wrong questions. The Bible is abundantly clear that we are saved by God’s grace through our faith, and that not of works, lest anyone should boast. The Bible is equally clear that faith without works is dead, so if you don’t produce the works of obedience, that is evidence there is no living faith. Theologians have argued the faith vs. works thing for centuries, and we have, too, for probably longer than warranted. I would like to suggest that we just take the Word of God at face value and believe and obey what God says, regardless of any theology we might have imposed on the living Word. Review with me the two verses we studied last week: 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, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. That ought to settle the matter. We are to be obedient to God; but we are to know with certainty that the ability to obey God is given to us by God, and it is not we ourselves who are generating the power. But, by the same token, unless we commit ourselves to obedience, we will never appropriate the power of God to act through us. Why? Because we are not obedient! While that circular statement may have you a bit dizzy, I believe that you still know what you need to know: God wants us to obey Him, and that obedience ought to grow throughout our lives of faith. We’re about to learn how to become stars for God. And the first step of godly stardom is a deepening obedience of faith. What does a mature faith look like? It looks like mature obedience. Read Philippians 2:14-15 Mature obedience does not complain Mature obedience does not COMPLAIN. You will recognize the synonym FOR COMPLAIN from the Old Testament: murmuring. Here’s how you’ll know when your faith has matured: When you stop complaining! When you find yourself encountering the truth of God—something you are called to respond obediently to—and you just do it, without stammering about how hard it is, or why God expects so much of you or how other Christians seem to get by without ever doing it. That will be a sign to you that your faith and obedience have matured. What’s that? It hasn’t happened yet? Well, then, I encourage you to LET IT HAPPEN! This is not hard for us parents to understand. We spend years and half the life of our vocal chords telling, chiding, reminding our kids of their responsibilities. And then we tell them not to talk back. The, one glorious day, the kid voluntarily and agreeably just does what he’s been told! You know he’s maturing, right?! We’re no different. When the will of God in a certain matter has become clear to us, we are at that moment called to obedience. Any disobedience, any hesitation, any attitude is evidence to us of an immature faith. By the way, a case can be made for this being true on the horizontal plane as well. People who gripe and complain to one another about what they have to do are not very mature. As my son-in-law has taught his children repeatedly, There’s nothin’ to it, but to do it! Mature obedience does not argue The other word Paul uses to identify an attitude that suggests immaturity of faith and obedience is ARGUE. Mature obedience does not argue. This term refers to questioning the command or insinuating that what is expected of me is not right or fair. Do you find yourself secretly arguing with God when He is making it clear to you what He wants you to do? Or, maybe you couch it as a dialogue with yourself. For instance, God’s Spirit has just used a teaching from His Word that has brought you conviction about being more generous with your money. Immediately, self-talk about payments to creditors, the high cost of gas, the suddenly anemic IRA, start to rise. Rationalizations and excuses, complaints and arguments. As if God was not aware of those things before He convicted you. Oh, that’s right, Rich! How could I have forgotten about the rising cost of cereal and eggs? Well, I guess I had better reconsider what I’m asking of you! Maturity is evidenced by instant, decisive obedience The problem with arguing and complaining is that gap of hesitancy in obedience. Once you delay in obeying God, all kinds of additional temptations and distractions rush in to your heart and chain you down. Don’t give the devil that kind of foothold. Don’t spurn your Father God, don’t crucify the Son of God again, don’t grieve His Spirit. Obey now, instantly and decisively. Here’s the heart of the matter. Maturity of faith is evidenced by obedience that is instant and decisive. When is that last time you bowed in prayer and said, Lord, I’ve been such a cry baby and a brat. I know that if You ask me to do something you will supply all that I need. I know that you are honored and worshiped when I just trust You in such matters. I apologize sincerely. Help me stop fighting with Your Spirit, but just obey You right away. 2. A Growing Purity Here’s an insight that I believe will be most helpful for you to leave on the refrigerator door of your heart: purity comes from obedience. Take another look at the wording of verse 15. There is a purpose marker there: : …so that you may become… Purity comes from Obedience What do those two words signify? That what came before will result in what comes after. Do everything without complaining or arguing SO THAT you may become blameless and pure. Those two words indicate a purpose clause. I am going to try to be good so that Santa will bring me toys. I will save money each week so that I can buy that new IPod. I will stay awake and alert during the sermon so that I don’t discourage the pastor. Now, we know that we are called to live lives of purity and holiness in the world, and we know we are called to be sanctified more and more in life and godliness, and we know that we are called to grow into the image of Christ. But did you ever consider HOW you do that? Here’s the answer: instant and decisive obedience, without complaining and arguing. Blameless and pure “Blameless and pure” are the words Paul uses to define the holy lives of believers. Blameless refers to the judgment another person might pass on a Christian who is living in obedience to God. It has to do with being seen as a person of good character, a person of godly integrity. One insightful writer urged that we ought to so live that if anyone ever spoke evil of us he would be embarrassed because no one would believe him. The other word is pure and it means “without blemish”. Christians, we should strive to have no acne on the face of our behavior in the world. But should we even worry about how we look to other people? After all, pleasing God is all that matters, and even if we were perfect, pagans would still find something wrong about us! Children of God in a crooked and depraved generation Does how we look to the world around us really matter? YES. God wants His children to stand out as different in the world of crookedness and depravity. This may be the most important point Paul wanted to make in this passage—that God wants His kids who are being saved to look different from those who are perishing! In fact, He wants us to have Striking Good Looks! 3. Striking Good Looks     You shine like stars in the universe Paul uses a vivid image to describe not only how we are to look to the watching world, but also what we are to do in the world for the sake of those who have not yet given themselves to Christ in faith. We shine! Like stars in the universe, we shine. We read some of the key biblical passages that teach of the purpose of light in God’s design. Just as stars shine brightly on clear nights, so will God’s people reflect His goodness and grace into a corrupt and sinful culture. I know I don’t need to spend time convincing you that the world around us, and even the culture of America, is growing darker and more immoral every hour. Good! Well, not really, but in one sense it will help the purposes of God. Do you remember when you shopped for a diamond? The wise salesman at the counter would take the diamond and place it under just the right light, but on top of black velvet, as he showed it to you. Why? Because for you to more fully appreciate the beauty of the precious stone it had to be presented in contrast to something dark. Against that black, light-absorbing velvet that diamond will sparkle and shine all the more beautifully to the eyes of the customer. Brothers and sisters, God loves lost people, and He wants to impress them with what He can do in people’s lives. And, against the backdrop of a dark and sinister world, even an imperfect Christian looks pretty good. Do you see? He wants a people to showcase His grace and healing in real human lives, so He needs a church that is pure and blameless. So He calls His people to be obedient, SO THAT they will be blameless and pure, and can participate in the glorious work of the Kingdom: representing God’s love and grace to sinners. Do you see why it is important to be instantly and decisively obedient to Him, why we are called to avoid complaining and arguing? He wants you to shine like stars! You hold out the Word of Life Besides blameless and pure lives that stand out in stark contrast to the world, the Lord gives us another role. We are to teach His Word. Paul says, As you hold out the Word of Life. Hold onto the Word of Life There are two possible ways to understand and translate this wording. One would emphasize that we are to HOLD ONTO the Word of Life. That is we are to continue to honor God’s Word, and hold tenaciously to the truths and doctrines of our faith. The Bible is, after all, God’s Word revealed to you—His will in written form for our instruction, correction and training in righteousness. It is always when a branch of the faith or a denomination begins to disbelieve and lessen their respect for the Bible that those groups fall into waywardness and worldliness. Our witness does depend strongly on how we venerate the truth of God’s Word. Hold forth the Word of Life The other way of understanding the term hold out the word of life is in the sense of HOLD OUT the Word of Life. That is, the church is called to faithfully and continually teach and preach the eternal truths of God’s Word. In this behavior we are seen as holding forth the word of life. Romans 10 summarizes our responsibility as the church of Jesus Christ: How can they call on the one they have not believed in? How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? Is there any believer in this room who came to faith without the Word of God being held out to them? Of course not. God has chosen that by the preaching of the Word lost men and women should come to faith in Jesus Christ. Church, we need to both hold ONTO and hold FORTH the Word of Life in this community, and even to the far reaches of His world where God asks us to go. Let’s be faithful to give to this great cause of God, to serve this great cause and to faithfully go and share the Word of Life with those who need to hear. We have heard the challenge of His Word: that we should be blameless and pure, that we should shine brightly to His glory, that we should hold out the Word of Life. Now, we are to OBEY. That is how it all gets done—through the instant and decisively response of the faithful, the obedient children of God. 4. Abandoning Life I would like to close with one final point brought out in verses 16-18. Paul tells the Philippian Christians that he would like the honor of boasting in the day of Christ that he did not work in vain as he preached and taught among them. He says it doesn’t matter to him if his whole life is “wasted” in this task of serving them with the hope of helping them shine like stars. Read text Like a Drink Offering He uses somewhat strange language as he explains himself. Actually he is drawing from the Old Testament sacrificial system and in particular the “drink offerings”. We don’t know a lot about these “libations” as they are called. But we do know that they were auxiliary offerings. When a major sacrifice was made—say a bull or a goat for a particular occasion, the priests would add an additional “gift” by pouring an expensive liquid over the offering. In this way, the priest and the people would say to God, We want this offering to be complete and fully satisfying to the Lord. Paul says he sees his ministry in the life of the Philippians in this way. Poured out on He pictures all he has done in service to them as but an extra drink offering, poured out on their sacrifices. The real sacrifice and service to God is being carried out by the believers in the church, not, Paul says, by me. My ministry, though important in completing the offering to God, is only incidental to your work. The sacrifice and the service He refers to their sacrifice and their service. Do you suppose Paul had in mind the many times the Christians reached out to neighbors with the good news, only to be rebuffed and persecuted all the more by those who didn’t want to hear? Was part of the service he referred to perhaps the times when they gave as much as they possibly could to help support Paul’s wider mission throughout the Roman empire? Those sacrificial things the believers were doing were absolutely a sacrifice to the Lord. Of your faith It was the hard work and sacrifice of the church that evidenced their faith and obedience to the Lord. Paul was at pains to make it clear to this band of believers at Philippi that every work they did in faith was indeed important to the Kingdom of God. Be glad and rejoice And he urged them to be glad and rejoice, as he did, for the privilege of serving their lives away for the Lord Jesus.     [ Back to Top]          
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