Using Our Freedom to be Lights in the World

Steve Viars July 5, 2008 Philippians 2:12-18

 

- Our choir and orchestra have just led us in a celebration of the freedoms that we enjoy here in our country, and a reminder of the tremendous price that has been paid by many men and women to secure those freedoms...

- even for those among us today who are citizens of other countries, we think it is right to thank God for the blessings He has bestowed upon us here...

- However, for those who would say that we are followers of Jesus Christ, we often find ourselves experiencing conflicting emotions during such a celebration...

- it is almost like you want to end the presentation with an asterisk

- it’s a mental sentence that ends with the word “but”...

- Because there are legitimate reasons to be concerned where freedom has taken our nation...

- or perhaps better, whether we have been good stewards of the freedoms which have been entrusted to us...

- the question this morning is – how do Christians function in a culture which has many characteristics for which we are thankful, and many trends about which we’re concerned?

- for direction in that matter, let me invite you to open your Bible to Philippians chapter 2...page 155 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you...

- our theme this year is Seeking God’s Plan...

- of all of the directions we could go and initiatives we could adopt – what is it that the Lord really wants our church to focus on in the next 5 years?...

- and then this summer, working verse by verse through the book of Philippians...Seeking God’s Plan for Joyful Unity...

- Understanding what our mission truly is in a culture that concerns us is one of the points that can potentially unite us if we are all taking our cues from the Word of God...

- this passage can really us help us in that matter...

- read Philippians 2:12-18...

- we’re talking this morning about Using Our Freedoms to be Lights in the World...

- in these verses, we can 4 principles to guide our ministry to the culture in which we live.

I. Work Out the Practical Aspects of Your Salvation.

- now, these verses give us an opportunity to flex our principles of Bible study muscles...

- formally that is called the study of hermeneutics, the art and science of Bible interpretation...

- we believe that there are principles of language and logic that must govern the way we interpret and apply the Word of God...

- that is why Paul told Timothy -- 2 Timothy 2:15 - Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

- and there would be few other doctrines about which it would be more important for us to “cut it straight” than the issue of salvation...how a person establishes a relationship with God and what that person’s lifestyle looks like after that decision is made...

- so these verses are very important, but let’s be sure to proceed with caution...it starts here...

A. Salvation begins by making a decision to trust Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

- that is one of our primary principles of Bible study – the matter of who is being addressed in a particular passage of Scripture...

- in this case, we know that the apostle Paul is writing to a group of people whom he believes have already become Christians...he addressed them all the way back in verse one of chapter one as “saints”, saved ones...

- repeatedly he has addressed them as brethren...

- so what we are reading about in chapter 2 verse 12 is not how a person becomes a Christian, it’s how a person lives because he/she is a Christian...

- that brings us to another principle of Bible study...the unity principle [develop]...

- in other words, whatever we decide Philippians 2:12 means, that has to be able to stand up to the rest of the Scripture...and there is no question that God’s Word makes it clear that salvation is not something you earn, it is something you receive...

- Ephesians 2:8-9 - For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

- Titus 3:5 - He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,

- John 3:16 - For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

- this is also consistent with the conversion of the first members of what would become the Philippians church, a man we refer to as the Philippians jailer – remember he said to Paul and Silas because of their powerful testimony in his jail...

- Acts 16:29-31 - And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

- so again, salvation begins at a point in time when a person admits his need and then makes a decision to place his faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross [without that, everything discussed in the passage before us would be impossible]...

- which of course would lead me to ask you – has there been a definite time in your life when you’ve come to this point of decision...do you know that you know...

- With that being said – where does Philippians 2:12 fit into all of this?...

B. Salvation is also a process of changing and growing and serving Christ that is life-long.

- we love Ephesians 2:8-9 – sometimes we fail to include verse 10...

- Ephesians 2:10 - For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

- see, that is the point of the verse before us...after you have come to Christ --- which again to be sure we have this clear – is a once and for all decision that is made at a point in time – as soon as that decision is made you are sealed by the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption [Eph. 1:13, 4:30],

– you are located in the protective hands of both God the Father and God the Son [John 10:27-30]

- but once you have come to Christ – you are now on a journey of working out your own salvation –

- kataepgazesthe – to accomplish, to continually work to bring something to completion or fulfillment

- see, the reason that many churches and Christians are not having the impact on their cultures that God desires is because they are expending so much energy criticizing everyone else that they are not expending the right amount of effort into their own salvation...

- it’s almost like – I’ve trusted Christ, now I’m done – that frees me up to talk about how bad everybody else is ---

- no, now you’ve started...

- it is time to work out the practical implications of your salvation...

- to let the beauty of your position affect all the aspects of your practice...

- and that is so important that Paul said at the end of verse 12...

- v. 12 - ..with fear and trembling.

- we have to be sure as individuals, and as a church, that we get this right...

- that is why verse 13 is such good news...because here is the other side of the coin...

C. Both aspects of salvation are grounded in the power and enablement of God.

- Philippians 2:13 - for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

- now you might say – wait a minute --- then who’s doing the work – me, or the Lord?...

- what the answer to that question?...both...

- you have a part to play and God has a part to play...

- it’s like Paul will later say in -- Philippians 4:13 - I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

- now, what’s the point of this so far?...

- the best thing you can do for our country and our culture...and the best thing we can do for our country and our culture...

 - isn’t to be critical, and cynical, and self-righteous...

- it is focus first and foremost on the ways we need to change...

- to be more authentic in our walk with Christ...

- to be giving attention to the kinds of personal lives we are cultivating...and the kind of work ethic we are developing...

- and the kind of friend we are trying to be to others...

- and the kinds of marriages and families we are trying to build...

- your salvation impacts all of that and more...

- and Paul says – you need to be working at that...and frankly, too many of God’s people are lazy...

- cf. Matt 7:3 – [log/speck]

- cf. I Peter 4:17 – judgment begins in the household of God

- cf. conversation with media leader – you people just sit around in church and criticize everyone else...[not true, but is certainly some folk’s perception – why?]

- now, you might say...are there practical ways in the text to guide us in this endeavor...

II. Avoid Two Sins Which Will Easily Mar Your Impact For Christ.

- do you see those two sins in verse 14?....they’re not hard to find, are they?...

- Philippians 2:14 - Do all things without grumbling or disputing;

- don’t you love the practicality of the Word of God?

A. Grumbling

- Goggusmos – complaint

- see, some people have established themselves as professional critics...they don’t do anything, but they can certainly complain about what other people do...

- and the Scripture could not be any clearer – that kind of behavior is not of God...

- in fact, our policy around here is...if you don’t have a positive solution to offer [along with a willingness to serve/sacrifice and be part of that solution], then you have forfeited your right to fuss...

- over the years I have been willing to meet with anyone about anything...

- but I have also made it clear that at some point in that conversation I will probably ask you when the last time was you tried to talk to someone about Christ...and I’ll also ask you to list the positive ways you’re serving the Lord here...

- because answers to questions like help determine your credibility in the body...

- people who don’t have their hands on the plow ought not to be fussing about the direction of the rows...

- it is interesting that one of the first uses of this word in church history occurred not long after the church was born...

- Acts 6:1 – Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food.

- so what happened?...they didn’t stomp off in sinful anger...

- they didn’t threaten to take their ball and go home...

- they communicated together and they found a workable solution to the problem...and in that case, it was the institution of a new office in the church...that of deacon...

B. Disputing.

- that’s where unbridled grumbling leads...

- to fights and dissensions...

- in many churches, this verse summarizes their history...

- recommend Who Stole My Church?...

- now, when we extrapolate this out to our culture...what are many churches known for in their communities?...being mad about something, complaining about something...

- do you agree with this statement – being thankful has become a lost art in this culture...

- [develop – for example, I mentioned two weeks ago that Milestone Contractors had gone to the extra trouble of scheduling a stress test of our concrete entrance on Saturday and when the concrete passed, their construction superintendent Doug Pierce actually came out here on Saturday night to take down the barricades so we could use that entrance – that is incredible for a construction company to treat a church like that...

- I want to ask you a question – how many of you wrote to Milestone and thanked them for that?...

- How many of you wrote to INDOT?...

- did anyone think about writing to the Governor and thanking the state for their part in this and commending Milestone for the excellent customer service we received?...

- if not, then do you mind if I ask you – why not?...

- many times we are not expressing thankfulness with our lips because we are not cultivating thankfulness with our hearts...

- cf. also TEAM Works – this gets at what we really want to be known for in our community – the church that’s mad about _____, or the church that is trying to live out the practical applications of their faith and therefore are contributing to this community by holy lives and serving hands...

III. Seek to Be a Light in the World in Which We Live.

- when we think about our future plan, we can receive a ton of guidance from verses 15-16...

- Philippians 2:15-16 - so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life...

- let’s break this down...

A. Admittedly our culture is crooked and perverse, because that is what sin does.

- there are many words in the Bible for sin...

- Avah – bent, or twisted

- like a key that no longer fits in a lock...

- Ra – broken up, ruined

- Pasha – rebellion against a rightful authority

- Rasha – confusion, tossing

- Aven – vanity, unprofitable behavior

- Amal – sorrow

- Hamartia – missing the mark

- Parabosis – crossing the boundary line

- we are clearly living in a fallen world...

B. But remember, if we are any different, it is first and foremost because of God’s grace.

- Romans 5:20 - The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,

- that is why Paul ended this book with these simple words...Philippians 4:23 - The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

C. It is always better to light a candle than to shout at the darkness, especially the candle of God’s Word.

- That’s what we’re called to be, and that’s what we’re trying to be...using our freedoms to become...Philippians 2:15-16 - ...children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life...

- develop the way the future plan seems to be shaking out...

- hold off building an auditorium...

- small education build out

- focus our attention resources on trying to provide more answers from God’s sufficient Word to help those in need...

- on Purdue Campus

- men’s ministry at Bethany Farms

- upgraded counseling center and training here...

IV. Be Prepared to Rejoice in Whatever Sacrifice Might Be Involved in Impacting Our Culture in This Way.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video