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Sermon Being Stars 3-11-2024

"Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, 'children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.' Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain."



Sermon Phil 2 12-18 Being Stars

 

Introduction

Our text in Phil 2:12-18 builds off of Paul’s description of Christ’s sacrifice in obedience to death on the cross. Phil.1:7-8: Christ gave up his divine privilege;   He took the humble position of a slave[b] and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form,[c] he humbled himself in obedience, to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” NLT Therefore, Paul continues 12 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, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’[a] Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. “

Verses 12 and 13 provide two vital responses we as Christians need to make to Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection. The first is that we fulfill our calling from God with the same obedience Christ had in going to the cross. V. 12, 14-16. The second is God’s extraordinary power in believers that makes our obedience possible and fruitful. Today, I want to consider the implications of both of these responses.  Let us pray.

Phil.2:15 says “You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God in a dark world full of people who are crooked and stubborn. (The Living Bible). This theme of the world’s darkness is often repeated throughout Scripture. Darkness represents many things.  It represents death. Matthew 4:16 says: the people who have sat in darkness …and in the shadow of death, on them light has dawned.”  ‘You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived… obeying Satan, following the desires of the flesh and senses and so you were by nature children of wrath’ (Eph.2).  2 Corinthians 4 says darkness is blindness: the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel in the glory of Jesus Christ.  John 3:19-20 says darkness is evil deeds: This is the judgment that the light (Christ) has come into the world and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. All who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light so that their deeds may not be exposed.”  Paul adds: Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness but instead expose them.  For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly (Eph.5:11-12). 

 

Light in darkness can be the difference between life and death. It was for Keith and I on a missions trip. On a journey from Quito Ecuador to a small town on the edge of a jungle, the pickup truck driven by our missionary host reached a mountain blocking our path. The road turned into a dirt road that snaked across the face of a mountain to the towns beyond.  It was now dark – and this is a total pitch-dark blackness. No houses, no electricity. And no chance to just pull over and sleep in the car till daylight. We would have frozen to death. We were high in the mountains with no car heater, no blankets. The only way on this one-way road was forward.  BUT as we were about to drive on that road our headlights and horn went out.  The mountain rose sharply to our left and a cliff with a sharp drop-off to the gorge hundreds of feet below was on our right with no guard rails. There were occasional waterfalls and rock slides that cascaded down the mountain onto the road.  In addition, it was often only wide enough for one car at a time.  If a car came from the opposite direction, one vehicle would have to back up to make room.  If you backed up too far, you could go over the edge into oblivion.  A woman had done that just 2 weeks before we came.

 

The bus carrying our collegians and our two children had gone ahead so they didn’t know Keith and John and I were in danger.  The darkness closed in around us – silent, brooding, and cold.  We started to pray: “Lord, you know where we are.  The darkness is as light to you.  Help us fix the lights on the car - send us help, Lord.”  John got out and tried to figure out what was wrong with the headlights, but he couldn’t find the problem.  The minutes ticked by.  Then, while he was still tinkering under the engine hood, a taxi came up behind us. A taxi in this remote region of Ecuador at night!  He pulled in behind us and also tried to fix the lights.  NO luck.  So, he and John planned an audacious thing.  The taxi agreed to be our lights on this tortuous dirt road.  We thought he would go in front of us, leading the way but he said No.  He would be behind us, shining light onto our path.  We drove for over 2 hours like that – inching our way along in the blackness with the taxi’s lights behind us.  Every time we rounded a curve, we had to stop until the taxi came around too or we could turn the wrong way and head over the cliff.  Praise God, we made it to town with that taxi shining his lights all the way.  And we never met another vehicle coming in the opposite direction.  We sang all the way there, praising God for His guidance and love.  God had protected us, sending a taxi to provide light in the darkness.  (We found out later that no one had ever heard of him in the next village where he said he was going or seen him since.) God’s angel.

Keith and I didn’t know the acute danger we were in – just like so many millions who live in spiritual darkness and don’t know their eternal danger. But Jesus Christ came as the Light of the world.  He came to deliver people from their darkness. He said: I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.  Then he also said to his followers: You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither does anyone take a light and hide it under a bushel. Let your light shine for all to see so that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Mt.5:14-15).  Those who have accepted Christ are to be light bearers.  That is you and I, beloved.  That’s the role of the church Christ want us to have. God wants to rescue people from their darkness with His light just like that taxi driver did for us. But He needs us for that job. We need to come alongside people and lead them safely to the Lord, Our light and our salvation. God’s light-bearers.

 

We need to tell people what the Bible says, because otherwise peoples’ blindness results in funny twists to the Bible.  

Bill Cosby asked a child: ‘Do you know how God punished Adam and Eve for eating the apple?’  Little Max replied, “Yeah, God made ‘em sit down and read the Bible.’

            ‘Well, at that point, reading the Bible didn’t take very long,’ Cosby said.

            “No,” insisted Max. “The Bible’s a BIG book. They got’ em at church. I see ‘em them all the

 time.”

            “What I mean, Max, is that almost nothing had happened yet when Adam and Eve were in the

 Garden of Eden, so there was almost nothing to put in the Bible.”

            “Maybe in YOUR church,” said Max. (Bill Cosby, Kids Say the Darnedest Things, p.23)

 

So, we straighten out people’s misconceptions J.  But if we don’t tell others about Christ, we are not fulfilling our calling as Christians. We are not shining like stars in the universe.  Why not? because, we have hidden Christ in us under a bushel –We have a bushel complex. Christ may be in our life, but we keep him out of sight, so others don’t notice! Have you ever done that?  We get into a conversation, and someone brings up God and everyone laughs, and we cringe and don’t say anything.  Or we hear people talk about their fear of terror or meaninglessness, but we don’t tell them how Christ can save them.  They are lost and spiritually blind without him, yet we don’t introduce them to the light.  That’s actually cruel.  And it’s disobedient.

 

The need is urgent, friends. The danger of darkness is real and many in the darkness don’t realize its eternal consequences. So how can we as a church be God’s light-bearers?  It will happen when God takes control of our hearts and His reflection shines clearly through us. When we focus on Jesus, His reflection can be seen in our faces and in our actions.  We can be like that taxicab driver, available to deliver people, as God has delivered us, from the danger of spiritual darkness.  I yearn to see people come to know the Lord.  Remember, that’s actually what started Hope Church – as 5 different people who had known ABOUT God all their lives opened their heart to Christ and invited him INTO their lives.  That has changed them forever.  That’s part of our mission: that the people of God help lead other people out of darkness to the light of Christ.

 

This is the calling Paul urged the Philippians to fulfill as believers walking in obedience to God and holding out the word of life in the darkness all around them.  God has called all believers to be God’s light-bearers.

 

God’s empowerment

But that calling seems impossible to fulfill as God wants, God’s way. UNLESS. . .We live in terms of the promise Paul gives to the Philippians in the previous verse. We can fulfill our calling “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to God’s good purpose.  Here v.13 in other biblical translations: Passion Translation: God will continually revitalize you, implanting within you the passion to do what pleases Him. Amplified Bible Translation: For it is [not your strength, but it is] [a]God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure. New Living Translation: For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. NIV 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose.

 

This is the amazing uniqueness of the Christian gospel, beloved. It is not a works religion when devotees are always trying to reach the impossible standards of their religion or deity.  In Christianity there are the same high standards, but Christ has given us His Holy Spirit to make it possible for us to reach those standards in Him. It is possible to bring God joy, to please Him, to work with Him to fulfill His highest goals for the world.  We hold out the Word of life in His power, with His mercy and love and offer salvation and a life of forgiveness and purpose to all those who are stumbling in the darkness. People loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. All who hate the light and do not come to the light so that their deeds may not be exposed.”  People caught in the bondage of shameful thoughts and actions – done secretly (Eph.5:11-12) or blatantly in the broad daylight. 

 

Our prayer, then, in application to God’s purposes in the world is the song: Shine Jesus Shine. It’s one of my favorite hymns.  And it’s all about Christ shining as the light – flooding the world with His grace and glory. 

 

Lord, the light of Your love is shining, in the midst of the darkness shining. Jesus, light of the world, shine upon us, Set us free by the truth you now bring us. Shine on me, shine on me.  Refrain. Shine Jesus shine, fill this world with the Father’s glory, blaze, Spirit, blaze. Set our hearts on fire.  Flow, river flow, flood the nations with grace and mercy. Send forth your word and Lord, let there be light. “(Words and music: Graham Kendrick)

 

That song is actually a prayer because God’s intent is that Christ shines through us.  That’s why verse two is Blaze, Spirit, blaze. Set our hearts on fire.  It’s when our hearts are aflame with love for Jesus Christ that we become light bearers for others. We are no longer victims of the bushel complex – putting Christ’s light under a bushel. By his Spirit blazing within us let’s shine like stars in the universe.  Let Him shine, let Him shine, let Him shine!

 

Amen.  Dr. M.L. Codman, Pastor New Hope Global Fellowship 3/12/24

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