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Philippians 2:12-18 - Time to Shine

Philippians - Joy for the Journey  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  36:51
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The mind of Christ makes us shine in a twisted world



The day that he stepped into the White House, Joe Biden issued an executive order that requires schools to allow biological males to compete in female sports. The order also demands that males who are pretending to be females to be allowed in locker rooms and bathrooms with biological females. Other reports indicate that future female Army recruits are being told that they must be prepared to use the same bathroom and shower facilities with males.) BIden has also torn away all of the protections for the unborn ordered by President Trump, and canceled the “Mexico City policy”, allowing international organizations to promote the murder of babies with your tax dollars. He has also signaled broad support for the irreparable mutilation of children’s bodies through drugs and surgeries at the whim of adults who believe their kid is “transgender”. And he is supported by broad swaths of the American public who will call me a dangerous radical for saying things like transgender surgeries are the “irreparable mutilation of children’s bodies”.
In the verses we just read together, the Apostle Paul calls his readers to “shine as lights in the world” in the midst of a “crooked and twisted generation”. We are living in a “crooked” generation—the word in Greek means just about the same as it does today when we talk about a “crooked” politician—harsh, unjust and treacherous. We live in a “twisted” generation—not just perverse and twisted, but the word here means someone who is actively and consciously rejecting moral standards of goodness. If ever there was a generation of Americans that fit the description of “crooked and twisted”, you’re living in it.
And so once again we ask the question, What are we to do? How are we to live in the midst of this crooked and twisted and perverted generation? Paul says it very simply: “Shine as lights in this world” as “blameless and innocent children of God, without blemish”. Over the past two weeks we have been unpacking what Paul meant by “letting our manner of life be worthy of the Gospel” (Philippians 1:27)—a life worthy of the Gospel is characterized by a spirit of unified fearlessness for the truth of the Gospel, and is characterized by a church family that lives in humble-minded unity grounded in the mind of Christ.
Our text this morning flows out of the magnificent hymn of the humility and glory of Christ in Philippians 2:5-11:
Philippians 2:5–11 ESV
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Our passage picks up in verse 12 with “therefore, my beloved...” So what we read in verses 12-18 is all grounded in Christ’s humility and exaltation in verses 5-11. Everything in verses 12-18 is true of you, Christian, because everything in verses 5-11 are true of Jesus. In verses 5-11 we are commanded to “have the mind of Christ”—have His mind in us so that our obedience looks like His, our humility looks like His, our sacrifice looks like His. Now, in these verses this morning Paul will describe how that mind of Christ in us looks in our lives. Paul is going to show us here in this passage that
The MIND of Christ calls you to SHINE in a TWISTED world
Look at verses 12-13 with me:
Philippians 2:12–13 ESV
12 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, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
The first thing we see about the mind of Christ is that

I. You are called to WORK (Philippians 2:12-13)

Right away we see the connection with the mind of Christ that Paul described in verses 5-11: Jesus “became obedient”—obedient to God’s will, even to the point of dying. And here Paul points out the obedience of the Philippian Christians. As Jesus was obedient, His mind in them creates obedience in them! And he places that “mind of Christ obedience” in the context of something he calls “working out your own salvation”: “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (v. 12).
Now, what in the world does Paul mean by that? This is the same man, after all, who went after the false teachers in Galatians with a cricket bat for saying that salvation had to come about by working to keep the Mosaic Law! This is the same Paul who wrote in Ephesians 2:8-9 that
Ephesians 2:8–9 ESV
8 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.
No, Paul is not talking about accomplishing your own salvation by works; the idea here is that you are to
WORK OUT in your life what God has WORKED IN (cp. James 2:18)
That’s the next verse--”For it is God who works in you...” It’s very much along the lines of what we read in the book of James, when James writes
James 2:18 ESV
18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
As we’ve said before; we are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone! If you have received the transforming mind of Christ by faith, then your life will change! You won’t have the same priorities as before, you won’t have the same thoughts, the same goals in life, the same desires or habits—so Paul is saying here that you are to work hard at making the salvation in your heart a reality outside your ribcage! Paul says you are to work out this salvation God has worked in you “with fear and trembling”—not out of a terror that you might not work hard enough to be saved, but with a respectful and reverent heart towards your Savior Jesus Christ—because He is expecting to see transformation in your life! Nothing could be clearer from His words in Matthew 7:18-23
Matthew 7:18–23 ESV
18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Christian, do you have the mind of Christ in you? Then you are called to work out the salvation God has worked into you. But even here, the work we are called to do in pushing the consequences of our salvation out into every corner of our lives does not come about by our own effort! What Paul tells us in verse 13 is that
The DESIRE and the DEED both come from GOD
That’s what we see in verse 13 of our text:
Philippians 2:13 ESV
13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Yes, God calls you to work to make your salvation as complete outside your heart as inside—but that doesn’t come about by you screwing up your determination and self-will to read the Bible more or gather for worship or pray more often. It comes about because God has placed in you a new desire for those things! The Christian life is not a matter of taking on new obligations: “Oh, now that I’m a Christian, I have to go to church...” The life that God has worked into you, Christian, gives you a desire to gather for worship that didn’t exist before! Your desire to please God, and your ability to please Him by your deeds and your capacity for obedience to Him have all come from Him!
Christian, all of the deeds that you do as part of your Christian life—your Bible study habits, your prayer life, your gathering for worship around the Word of the Lord and the Table of the Lord, your acts of service to others and your sharing the Gospel with your friends and neighbors—all these things are required of you! NOT so that you may achieve your salvation, but to demonstrate the salvation that God has already given you!
The mind of Christ calls you to shine in a twisted world—you are called to work, and

II. You are called to be PEACEABLE (Philippians 2:14-16)

Look at verses 14-16:
Philippians 2:14–16 ESV
14 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.
The words there for “grumbling or disputing” are also translated “murmuring and reasonings” or “murmurings and questionings, disputings...” It pictures the kinds of grumbling or second-guessing or complaining characteristic of someone who is dissatisfied or holding on to some kind of grievance—like the children of Israel in Exodus 16 who “grumbled” and “murmured” because they were hungry in the wilderness (and then grumbled and murmured some more after God sent them the manna from heaven!)
And again, there is a connection with the description of Jesus earlier in this chapter: Although He was in very nature God—He had all the rights and privileges of authority and glory and power—yet He did not grumble about losing them! He was satisfied to take on the form of a servant and become obedient—even to death.
And so Paul says here in verse 14, just as Jesus did not grumble and complain and argue about leaving aside His rights as God, so we should not grumble and argue when we have to lay aside our preferences and our liberties. First of all, I believe Paul was reminding the Philippians to be peaceable
Within your FELLOWSHIP
I think Paul has this in mind because of the way he has already called the Philippian believers to unity in Chapters 1 and 2, and also the way he will have to call out Euodia and Syntyche to “agree in the Lord” in Chapter 4. Paul says that we must guard against the kind of empty grumbling and complaining that characterized Israel in the wilderness—no matter what Moses did for them, they found fault with it. They grumbled about being thirsty and God used Moses to give them water—then they grumbled about not having bread, so God sent them manna from Heaven. Then they complained that they were eating too much bread, and so God sent them quail. Then they complained about the quail… and on it goes. You can see the kind of attitude Paul warns the church against.
Now, that’s not to say that there is no legitimate complaints to be raised in a church—in Acts 6, for instance, the Greek widows really were getting passed over in the daily food distribution. But when their complaint was raised, the leaders of the church answered the complaint by establishing servants to take care of them—and the dispute ended! But the kind of complaining that Paul warns about here is the kind that is never satisfied—no matter what is done to address a complaint, it is never good enough; every decision is second-guessed, every move questioned. Paul says that we are to do all things together without that kind of murmuring, complaining, second-guessing and whispering. A church that lets that kind of thing go unchecked is a church that will not survive the conflict that is coming.
We are called to be peaceable within our fellowship—but Paul also has his eye on our wider witness—we are to be peaceable
Within your GENERATION
as well. When we do all things without grumbling or disputing or second-guessing or arguing, Paul says, we shine as lights in the world. When we are “blameless and innocent” of murmuring and backbiting and arguing, we stand out in this twisted world. Think of how pervasive complaining and arguing are in our generation—and think of how much a peaceable and content attitude “shines” in this generation.
Take a moment and consider your words—do you shine with a blameless and innocent attitude of peaceableness in your speech? Or are your words shot through with the same complaining and grumbling as the world around you? Take some time this afternoon and scroll through your texts, for instance—how many of them are a complaint of some kind, and how many are an expression of gratitude? Read down through your social media, pay attention to your first impulse when you open your mouth to speak—are you demonstrating the pure and blameless speech of peaceableness and contentment, or do you sound just like the rest of the complaints and disputes all around you? Jesus said in Matthew 5,
Matthew 5:13–16 ESV
13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 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.
Paul says that one of the most powerful ways that Christians “shine as lights in the world” in the middle of a “crooked and twisted generation” is to “do all things without grumbling or disputing”. The mind of Christ that “did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped”, that did not argue and fight for His rights and His way in everything (but entrusted Himself to His Father in Heaven) is the same mind that will cause you to shine in a twisted world when you “let your reasonableness be known to everyone” (Philippians 4:5).
The mind of Christ calls you to shine in a twisted world, Christian—you are called to work, you are called to be peaceable, and

III. You are called to REJOICE (Philippians 2:17-18)

Look at the next two verses:
Philippians 2:17–18 ESV
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.
Once again, we see a connection with Jesus’ glorification in verses 8-9—Jesus became obedient unto death on the cross, and because of His sacrifice God highly exalted Him. The same truth is echoed in Hebrews 12:2, that “for the joy that was set before Him”, Jesus endured the sacrifice on the Cross. And in the same way, Paul ties together sacrifice and rejoicing. He says that he is glad to be “poured out as a drink offering” upon the Philippian church’s “sacrificial offering of their faith”. What I want to argue here is that Paul is saying that we are called to rejoice
As you REPRESENT the GOSPEL before the world (cp. Romans 12:1-2)
The reason that I say that is because of the way Paul talks about the Philippians’ faith as a sacrifice—the word “sacrificial offering” has its roots in the Old Testament to speak specifically of a priestly function. (The same word is also used in Romans 12:1-2, to describe the “living sacrifice” that is the spiritual worship (same word) of the believer.) A priest, you’ll remember, is someone who stands between God and man—representing God before men, and representing men before God. Jesus is, of course, our Great High Priest, who represents God to us, and stands before God as our representative.
And is that not just what it means to “shine as lights in the world in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation”? To be blameless and innocent in the midst of guilt and shame, to be peaceable and content in a world of envy and hatred and disputes and mockery? To demonstrate the mind of Jesus in a world that is losing its mind? Christian, your representation of Jesus Christ before this world is a priestly role—you belong to a kingdom of priests to serve our God (Revelation 5:10), you are
1 Peter 2:9 ESV
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
The mind of Christ in you causes you to rejoice when you represent the Gospel before the world, and
As you EMPTY YOURSELF for God’s GLORY (Philippians 2:18)
Paul says in verse 17 that he is “glad and rejoices with them”—even though he would be “poured out as a drink offering”. A drink offering was part of the Old Testament sacrificial system, in the “topping off of an ancient animal sacrifice. The offerer poured wine either in front of or on top of the burning animal and the wine would be vaporized. That steam symbolized the rising of the offering to the deity for whom the sacrifice was made”. (MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Php 2:17). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.)
Paul is saying here that his whole life is a “drink offering” that he is happy to pour out over top of the Philippians’ priestly sacrifice of faith, so that God may be glorified that much more. We’ve seen this elsewhere in our study of Philippians, haven’t we? Paul is not thinking about himself, is he? He’s not worried about his own reputation or his legacy or his future or even his life—all he cares about is that God’s glory increases, not his own!
And this is why Paul invites the Philippians to join him in his rejoicing— “be glad and rejoice with me!”—because he has discovered that when you let go of your need for constant affirmation, when you let go of the need for the attaboys and attagirls and are willing to simply let God be seen instead of you, then you have a peace and a contentment and a joy that can never be dimmed or diluted by a lack of praise!
Like Jesus, who “endured the Cross, despising its shame” for the joy set before Him, Paul has set his sights on the glory and honor and recognition that he would have from God Himself someday! He could say to the Philippians, “I am happy to completely spend myself in ministry on your behalf, because my goal is for God to be glorified!”
Christian, do you rejoice at the thought of spending yourself for God’s glory—even if it means that you have to let go of all of your own plans and preferences and “pour yourself out” until there’s nothing left? Does the mind of Christ in you draw you to hold forth His Word so that Jesus’ life is seen instead of yours? Does His mind in you give you a spirit of peaceable contentment in the midst of a world gone mad with fighting and complaining and arguing? Do you have a delight in obeying His call to “work out what He has worked in”, to do everything you can to make sure that your Christian faith isn’t just limited to having a few Christian sentences arranged in the right order in your head, but that everything you do and say and everyplace that you go and everything that you love and all of your hopes and goals and dreams converge on seeing the glory of God revealed in this world through you?
Surely if any age of Christianity can be said to be living in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, it is ours. But here is what God calls you to, Christian—here in these verses you are called to demonstrate the mind of Christ to a world that is losing theirs! Because it is only as this nation comes in repentance and faith to Jesus Christ that there is any hope to stem the tide of insanity that is rising all around you. You were raised up for just such a time as this—so work to make the faith that lives in your heart as visible outside to others as it is inside to you! Be peaceable within your fellowship here in this body as well as within the rebellious, twisted perversions of this generation. And rejoice that you have been given the priestly role of representing the Good News of the Gospel to a society that desperately needs to hear it (and once they start hearing it, they will be desperate to receive it!) And delight to pour yourself out for this Gospel—letting go of your need for acclaim, letting go of your reputation, letting go even of your own life so that you may magnify the glory of your Savior, Jesus Christ!
Ephesians 3:20–21 ESV
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.


Read Ephesians 2:8-9 and James 2:18. How do those verses help us understand what Paul is saying in Philippians 2:12, when he tells his readers to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”? What does it mean to “work out what God has worked in” to your life?
Why does Paul tell the Philippian church to “do all things without grumbling or disputing”. Take an inventory of the things that you have said or written or texted in the past twenty-four hours. Does your speech reveal patterns of complaining and arguing more than peace and contentment? What does Philippians 2:15 say will be true of us when we avoid complaining?
Read Philippians 2:5-11 again, and take note of the verbs that are used to describe Jesus’ behavior: “did not grasp...” “emptied Himself...” “taking the form of a servant...”, etc. Use that list of Jesus’ behaviors to evaluate the way His mind is working through you to make you “shine” in a crooked world this week.
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