Neither Grumble Nor Dispute, Part 2
March 29, 2020
Neither Grumble nor Dispute, Part 2
How did everyone do with not complaining or disputing this week, with being thankful and easy going? I did okay except for Wednesday afternoon. My son was working on building some K’nex toys. And these particular construction of K’nex was difficult so he asked for my help. Well, let’s just say I didn’t have the best attitude while building this toy. It was a intricate set up. I’m not the best with my hands and I was getting really frustrated. You know, murmuring under my breath. I was sinning. How’d you do this last week? We’re you thankful and easy going? Or, did you grumble and bicker?
If you failed like I did this week, take heart. The Lord has more about this topic of complaining and bickering to teach you from his Word this morning. If you experienced victory this week over complaining and bickering, also take heart. The Lord wants to continue helping you in fighting this sin with this morning’s passage.
My sermon this morning is Part 2 of “Neither Grumble not Dispute.” Last week was Part 1. Next week is Part 2. The reason why I have 3 parts to this series is based on Phil 2:14–16. Look in your Bibles at this passage. Do you notice that vv. 14–16 is one long sentence? Grammatically, the main idea is v. 14. That is the beginning of the sentence and the main idea of the sentence. All of what follows v. 14, so vv. 15 and 16, are based upon v. 14. Verse 14 is the main idea in this passage.
Our passage for this morning’s message will be v. 15. Let’s start in v. 14 to get the context of the verse. Paul says,
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation.
We won’t cover all of v. 15. I will save the final part of v. 15 for last week. Our passage is, “that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation.”
For this sermon, the topic that we’re going to be exploring is the purpose of not grumbling or complaining. To pose it another way, the question we will seek to answer with this message is this question, “Why does God want us to refrain from complaining and bickering?” Or, to put it slightly differently, “What is the purpose of v. 14?” “Why should we as Christians refrain from complaining and bickering?” That’s the question.
I am getting this idea, this question from the first word in v. 15. Look with me there. The ESV reads, “that.” If you don’t have an ESV, your translation either says “that” or “so that.” What these English translations are communication is that v. 15 is providing for us the purpose statement of v. 14. Verse 15, the passage we are covering this morning, provides us with the purpose for v. 14.
That purpose is this. This is the main idea of this sermon, so write this down. The purpose of v. 14, the purpose for why God does not want us to complain and bicker is so that we live righteous lives in an unrighteous world. The purpose for not complaining and bickering is to be righteous in an unrighteous world. Living morally upright lives in a morally depraved world.
Breaking this big idea into two smaller ideas, I have two points for you this morning. The first point deals with the first part of my big idea, the second point with the second part of my big idea. For the first point this morning, write this, “Righteous Living.”
I get this from the first part of v. 15. Paul writes,
that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish
Paul is saying that you should not complain and bicker so that your lives will be righteous, so that your life will have the qualities of righteousness. The qualities of righteousness that Paul expresses in this passage are “blamelessness, innocence, purity.”
Inner righteousness matters a whole lot in the Christian faith.
On the Importance of Righteousness
Listen what Jesus himself says in Matt 5:20. Turn with me there. He states,
For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
What’s Jesus’ saying here? He’s saying this. There is an ethical requirement to enter the kingdom of heaven. And that ethical, moral requirement is that you must live a more righteous life than the scribes and Pharisees. Now it is not your own moral righteousness that saves you. It’s Christ’s righteousness that saves you. Christ’s righteousness, however, will produce in you a righteousness. That righteousness will manifests itself in how you act. When you act in accordance with Jesus’ righteousness, you righteousness will exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees.
This is essential. It’s so essential that Jesus makes it an absolute requirement for entering the kingdom of heaven. How you live your life, the choices you make, your works matter. They matter tremendously to God. We are saved by faith alone. That faith, however, is never alone. True faith is always accompanied by works.
These works matter to God. They produce in our lives righteousness. These works, specifically abstaining from complaining and bickering and gathering focusing on thankfulness and overlooking insults, produce in us blamelessness, innocence, and purity.
What it is that we should want as Christians is, we should want our lives to be blameless, innocent, and without blemish. If you are a Christian, you must care about the way that you live. If you say you are a Christian and you live a very carefree life, not really caring whether your life glorifies God, you need to be concerned about your soul. Morality cannot save you, dear friend.
Following some code of ethics offers you no hope You are a sinner deserving of God’s wrath. Nothing can change that reality for you except the grace of God. Nonetheless, when God saves you, he gives you the power to live for him. You must, dear Christian, work out your salvation with fear and trembling. You must live morally upright lives.
Righteousness in Phil 2:15
Turn with me back to Phil 2:15. When we live out Christ’s righteousness, when we refrain from complaining and disputing, righteousness take root in our life through certain qualities. Paul mentions three different forms of righteousness in our passage. Paul says, in v. 15, “that you may be blameless [that’s one quality of righteousness] and innocent [that’s another quality], children of God without blemish [that’s the third quality].” These three qualities “blamelessness,” “inncocence,” and “without blemish,” or, if translated positively, “purity” are the way that righteousness manifests itself in those Christians who refrain from grumbling and disputing.
These qualities are a tremendous blessing to the Christian. They are evidence of the Christian’s obedience to what Jesus says in Matt 5:20. There are evidence that the Christian is right with God. What peace these bring to the conscious. To have these qualities is to have a tremendous amount of inner peace. One of my college professors said (I’ve said this before from the pulpit), “The softest pillow at night is a clean conscience.” What these qualities of righteousness produce in our lives is the peace of conscious. What a gift this is. What a gift it is to have peace with God, to know your sins are forgiven, and to know that God’s grace is effective in your life. O, what a blessing it is to be blameless, innocent, and pure. Especially in this age of anxiety and fear, having a clean conscious is a wonderful treasure to have.
Children of God
Paul mentions that we should complain or dispute so that we might be “children of God without blemish.” Paul is not saying here that if you don’t complain or bicker then you become a child of God. No. What he is saying is that those Christians who obey v. 14, who don’t complain or bicker, they are “children of God who have no blemishes.” We’re dealt with the “without blemish” idea already. Now let’s discuss what Paul means by “children of God.”
This notion of “children of God” is an idea that you might occasionally hear in our broader context. “Everyone is a child of God,” it is sometimes said. The thinking might go, “Regardless of who you are or what you’ve done, you are God’s child simply by fact of the idea that God created you.” Is this true?
Well, it’s partially true. It is true that God has fathered everyone in the sense that he has made everyone. He is the creator, and every person in the whole wide world has meaning, dignity, and value because God has made them. That is true. That is why we are pro-life. We are pro-life because God created every human being in his image. That is true. We must uphold that.
The Bible, however, never uses the language of “child of God” for non-Christians. The Bible never refers to non-Christians as children of God. In fact, the Bible says that non-Christians are not children of God but are in fact children of the devil. Turn with me to 1 John 3:9 to explore this idea.
We will read through v. 10. The passage states,
No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
This passage presents us with two groups. The first group is the children of God. This group is mentioned in both vv. 9 and 10. In v. 9 the author talks about being “born of God.” Those who are “born of God” cannot continue to sin. Verse 9 is all about the children of God and how they live. Verse 10 presents us with the group “children of God” again but it also mentions “children of the devil.” The “children of God,” according to v. 10, practices righteousness and love his brother. “Children of the devil,” on the other hand, practice unrighteousness and to not love their brothers.
Now as it pertains to the cultural question we are investigating: Does this passage allow for the interpretation that non-Christians, those who do not practice righteoueness and those who do not love their brothers, to be considered as “children of God?” No. There are only two grup. You are either, according to this verse, a child of God or a child of the devil. If you are a child of God, then you are not a child of the devil. If you are a child of the devil, then you are not a child of God.
What this passage highlights is that there is a strong line of demarcation between Christians and the non-Christians, between the church and the world. This same line of demarcation shows up in our passage. In this John passage, that line of demarcation is designated by children of God and children of the devil. In our passage, Phil 2:15, that line of demarcation is designated by righteousness and unrighteousness. Turn back to Phil 2:15
In an Unrighteous World
We covered the first part of v. 15. Now for the second part. The context in which Christians are to manifest these qualities of righteousness—blamelessness, innocence, and purity—is in the midst of an unrighteous world. Paul says this,
In the midst of a crooked and twisted generation.
This is the realm in which we are to manifest our righteousness. This is the realm that we are to live righteously in.
Paul uses the word “generation” here to refer to society. He is not referring to a specific generation of people. He is referring to society.
Paul describes the society in Philippi as both “crooked” and “twisted.” The Greek word for “crooked” is where we get our word “scoliosis” from. Scoliosis is the improper curvature of the spine. Paul is saying that the Philippi culture is morally crooked. It is warped. Perverted. Paul repeats that same idea with his reference to “twisted.” An righteous society would be upright and morally straight. A wicked society, the society that the Philippian church lived in, was warped, wicked, and crooked.
Paul is not just describing the Philippian’s society. He is also describing our society. Human behavior doesn’t change so neither do society. We’re just more advanced. We have more technology but the same problems.
The evidence of this within our own time is how the world is coping with the stress and difficulty of this period of isolation. I ran into an article this week entitled,
How Coronavirus is boosting booze, weed, and other vice industries.
The article makes the argument that while many business are struggling during this period of isolation and social distancing, the vice industry—vice is another word for sin; business that sell products that lead to sin—is thriving. The article points out that liquor stores have been deemed essential business in states where all business are ordered to shut down. Cannabis products are selling more now. Alcohol delivery business are surging in value do to demand. These details are just the surface of the reality. The world uses sin to cope with difficulty. Rather than turning to God, they turn to substances, immorality, and wickedness. They drown their sorrows in alcohol and self-pity.
What does God want us to do in a world like this? One way Christians have dealt with the wickedness of the world has been to flee from it, to run from it, to escape it. Going back to the first few centuries, was for Christians to travel off into the deserts, the woods, the farthest reaches of civilization to be alone, to be away from the wickedness of the world. Some of these Christians believed that society was too corrupt for them to be a part of it. So to remain unstained from the world, they believed God wanted them to flee society and live alone by themselves.
As with most error, there is some truth to that. We are called to flee from evil, dear friend. Sometimes this is even physically. Sometimes the best way to deal with sin is literally run from it. That’s what Joseph did in Genesis. He did the right thing.
However, this can be taken to an extreme. These early Christians, while they did have good intentions, they failed to live out a righteous live in the midst of an unrighteous generation. They failed to follow Paul’s instructions in Phil 2:15. Paul specifically says we are to live out our righteousness, quote, “in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation.” If you run from this “crooked and twisted generation,” how can you live your life in this unrighteousness context which Paul mentions? You can’t.
Our Christian calling, dear friend, is to be a light. Our Christian calling is to live righteous lives in an unrighteous world. We are to shine as lights in this world. We are called to work out our salvation in a dark and wicked context. We are called to live here in earth, in society. We are not called to make a run from it. We are not called to run from the wicked societies we live in. So, let’s say in your family or in your workplace you are the only person who lives a righteous life. You are the only one who doesn’t complain, who is thankful, prayerful, and joyful. Should you flee these contexts? No. You should stay in them and live a righteous light in them. Jesus says,
Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Don’t run from the sinful world. Embrace it. Don’t embrace the sin but embrace the calling that God has placed before you. Live a righteous life in the midst of an unrighteous world.
Where does all of this start? Where does living righteously begin as this passage indicates. It begins in v. 14. It begins by refraining from complaining and bickering. The way we live righteously in this world is that we refrain from complaining and bickering. The way we maintain our witness in this world is by having a different set of attitudes and a different manner of talking than the world.
I want us as a congregation to make a big deal of this issue of complaining and bickering. Often, when I think of complaining and bickering, I don’t always see it as that big of a deal. When I think of complaining, I tend to view as a sin that “is not that bad.” We all do it, type of thing. Well no one is perfect.
That’s not how this passage treats these sins. They are a big deal. These sins of complaining and bickering are a big deal. They serve as the gateway to righteousness. They serve as the gateway of obeying what Jesus says in Matt 5:20. They are the way we show the world the truth of the gospel. By being thankful and loving, by not complaining or bickering, we show the world what righteousness is.
The application is to revisit v. 14. Dear friend, in the difficulty, in the isolation, loneliness, and boredom, don’t complain or bicker. Live a righteous life. I want to take this a step deeper, though. What I want you to do this week is to ask God to show you where, whether in the attitudes of your heart or in your speech, you complain and bicker. Ask God to show you where these sins manifest themselves in your life. They’re there, dear friend. Ask the Lord to show you where they are in your life in order that God’s Spirit might root them out and lead you to repentance.