Neither Grumble Nor Dispute, Part 3
April 5, 2020
Neither Grumble nor Dispute, Part 3
Good morning. A warm welcome to everyone, especially those who are joining us by livestream. My name is Chance Sumner. I serve as Senior Pastor here at Community Bible Church. I’m so thankful that you could join us today.
Wherever you are and whoever you are, I want you to know that God has a purpose for you during this difficult time. God has a purpose for you. I believe that with all my might. I believe with all my life that God is real, that his Son has risen from the dead, and the his Spirit is at work in this world. I testify of that this morning. I believe that with all my heart. I believe that this current situation we’re going through is all happening according to God’s sovereign plan. I believe that God knew this was coming and that nothing happens because of chance or coincidence. I believe that God made each of you. I believe that God has a plan in this pandemic for each and every one of you. I believe that God has a will for your life. God has purposes, dear friend. These purpose are grand, glorious, and beyond our comprehension.
This morning I want to explain God’s will for you during this time. How does God want me to live during this time? What a tremendous question. What a wonderful question. Dear friend, will you listen to me as intently as you can? Listen as closely as you can. I want to tell you God’s will for your life during this trying time.
If you have a Bible, please turn with me to Phil 2:15. Our passage this morning for my sermon will be Phil 2:15–16.
Among whom you shine as lights in the world, 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.
In our passage the Lord has three exhortations for us. These three exhortations are how God wants us to respond to this pandemic. God wants you to respond in three different ways to the difficulty of this pandemic.
The first way God wants you to act in this difficult situation is that God wants you to “shine.” Write that. Write, “Shine.” God wants you to shine.
I get this from v. 15. Paul says,
Among whom you shine as lights in the world
With this clause, Paul is piggybacking on what he said at the beginning of v. 15. Look with me at the beginning of v. 15. This was our passage last week. Paul says there,
That you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation.
When Paul says we are to shine as lights in the world, what “world” is he talking about? Well, the “world” at the end of v. 15 refers to the “crooked and twisted generation” he mentioned at the beginning of v. 15. Paul is telling the Philippians that they are to shine as lights in the midst of the morally depraved society in which they live.
To discuss the way the Christian is to live in a dark and dying world, Paul uses an important metaphor to communicate his point. Paul tells us here that we are to “shine as lights.” To understand what Paul is saying I must make the very obvious comment that Paul is not speaking literally here. Instead, Paul is using a metaphor. The metaphor pertains to light and darkness. Paul says that Christian do and should shine a “lights in the world.”
The word for “lights” here can also mean “stars.” It doesn’t really matter, though, how exactly Paul intends to use the word here, whether lights or stars. The meaning of the metaphor is the same. Christians do and should shine forth light in this dark world.
This notion of light and darkness is a powerful metaphor. It’s one that we seemingly understand from the point of birth. When I was a child, I used to fear the dark. I would hide under my covers when I got scared at night. What kid isn’t fearful of the dark. This is a universal experience. God has placed it in our hearts to crave the light and to fear the darkness. By creating us in his image, he makes us aware of spiritual realities.
The biblical writers use the light vs darkness metaphor over and over again for communicating spiritual truth. It is a common metaphor in Scripture. One wonderful passage where this metaphor receives extended discussion is in 1 John 1:5.
Listen with me to what John writes,
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
This passage offers us some tremendous truth for understanding Paul uses of light in Phil 2:15. We see from this passage that, “God is light and in him is no darkness at all.” That means that God is completely good, righteous, and true. The Bible says God dwells in unapproachable light. He is perfectly holy. There is no sin in him. There is not one iota of unrighteousness in him. In order to have fellowship with God in him is pure light and in whom there is no unrighteousness, we must walk in the light. That is, we must walk in holiness, righteousness, and truth. If we do this, if we walk in God’s light, we give evidence of Jesus power in our lives. By living in the light we show forth the power of Jesus’ blood.
Paul says in our passage, in Phil 2:15, that Christians shine as lights in the world. As I discussed last week, the society that we are living is crooked and twisted. This world we live in is dark. It is marked by unrighteousness. I’ve read this week that in some places liquor stores, marijuana
dispenseeries, and abortion clinics have been deemed by some as “essential business” that must remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic. On the contrary, some states have made it illegal to go to church. That is very twisted. Now it is illegal to go to church in certain places, but it is completely lawful to undergo an abortion. Sick. Twisted. Crooked. That’s the type of society we reside in.
The way we shine in this crooked and wicked society is that we live a different type of life. We live godly lives. We live lives of righteousness and godliness, truth, love, honesty, and sacrifice. We show this world how great our God is by living lives that model that he is the light.
The Darkness of Hopelessness
The darkness is broader than that, though. As mentioned in the introduction, there is darkness even within good, godly families. I think specifically of sad story coming out of Huron. Mari Hofer, age 51, died last Saturday morning due to complications from COVID-19. Mari was the wife of one and the mother of three. Mari was a Christian. She taught at for many years at James Valley Christian School. She was a healthy, God-honoring, selfless woman who died suddenly, unexpectedly. Her uncle, Bob Glanzer, also died this week. He was a State Representative here in South Dakota. In one week, a family looses two members of this family to this horrible virus.
Dear friends, Christians are not immune to this darkness. This world is not our home. Despair, hopelessness, anxiety, fear, dread are all around us. And, dear friends, I imagine that this will get worse for us before it gets better. I image the darkness will grow. Maybe some of you will die because of this. I’ve had that thought more than once.
As your pastor, I want you to know one thing. The way we shine in this world is through moral righteousness. I already mentioned that. But there’s another way. It’s through hope. Dear friends, we have hope. Jesus is risen from the dead! We do not face these difficult circumstances without hope. We never despair. We never suffer hopelessness. Never. Nothing can change the fact that God is good, that Jesus is alive, and that the Spirit is at work in this world. Nothing! Hope, dear Christian. Shine as lights in this world through the hope that we have in Christ.
The next command the Lord has for us is “Cling.” Write that. “Cling.” I get this from v. 16. Paul says there,
holding fast to the word of life
There are two different interpretations of what this phrase “holding fast” means. The first interpretation is that Paul is communicating a “clinging to” something, a holding on, a holding fast, and “holding on with all of your life.” The other idea that interpreters think this word embodies is the idea of “holding forth.” To hold fast refers to grasping something close to your body, not letting it go. To hold forth refers to grasping something away from your body, not letting it. Very similar ideas. The issue whether the object is held close or held out.
Word of Life
Before I give you my conclusion regarding how I want us to take “holding fast” this morning,” I want to dive into to explain what the phrase “word of life” means.
“Word” here should be understood as “message.” It’s like when someone says, “What’s the word on the street?” When people say this, they’re using word to refer to what people are saying. What’s the message? Same idea here. Word refers to message.
This “Word, this “message,” is qualified by the phrase “of life.” The message we are to hold onto is one that produces life. It gives life. “Of life” here I am taking as produces life, gives life. Understand “word of life” as “the message that grants eternal life.”
Now, dear friend, what is that message? It’s the gospel. Paul is referring to the gospel here.
Application of Holding Fast
Now, returning to our discussion of “holding fast.” Now that we have identified the object that we are supposed to “hold fast,” I can fully explain what Paul means when he refers to “holding fast the word of life.”
Paul calls us to two forms of obedience here. The first form is we should hold fast to the gospel. We are to hold fast to the gospel. The blessing of times of times like these is that in them the Lord strips us away of our false sense of security. One of the great sins of the world is to find security and safety in the things of this world. Whether that’s money, health, family, a sense of stability, our identity, whatever. As sinners we make idols of the things of this world by finding our security in them. These are false hopes, though. They do not last. Finances can be gone in a second. You could die at any moment. Your loved ones can be taken from you. Think about how much hard has been brought upon the world by a microscopic virus. You can’t even see it and yet the world is in a pandemonium. The Lord must strip from us ever sense of false security. And instead of finding our sufficiency, value, security, and comfort in any created things, the Lord would have us cling to the gospel.
I believe that I’ve shared this with you before, but I don’t remember when. In the Heidelberg Catechism, an ancient confession of faith, there is this question:
What is your only hope in life and in death?
This is the answer it provides.
That I am not my own, 1 but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit he also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him.
Any form or source of security that you think you have that is other than Christ is a lie. It is false. It is sinking sand. It is only the gospel that we can cling to.
Application of Holding Forth
The second form of obedience is this. Hold forth the gospel. First was holding fast to the gospel. This is holding forth the gospel. What this refers to is evangelism. In these times, friends, people are asking question that they don’t ask in times of comfort and ease. People are thinking about God, death, and life more so than ever. Dear friends, we must step into this opportunity and boldly proclaim the gospel.
This is what I want us to do this week. Evangelism in our times must look different than in our times. Everyone is on social media. It provides a great platform for sharing the gospel during these times. What I want us to do this week is to flood social media with testimonies of how Jesus has changed your life. I want us all to do this week is to record ourselves sharing our testimony of how Jesus changed our lives and also an invitation for others to seek Jesus for life change. Share it on your social media accounts. And use the hashtag #JesusChangedMyLife. And also, in your post, tag our church’s Facebook page. And invite everyone to listen to our Good Friday and Easter messages. Christians and churches all over the world will be doing this. The Gospel Coalition, a wonderful ministry organization, is heading this up. I will send out an e-mail tomorrow with more details. Will you do this, dear friend?
Day of Christ
Our last point this morning. Write this, “Endure.” “Endure.” First point was “Shine.” Second point was “Hold.” Third point is “Endure.”
I get this from the end of v. 16. Paul says
So that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
Paul transition the discussion away from the Philippians to discuss his own personal desires. Paul desperately wants the Philippians to not complain or bicker, to shine as lights, and to hold fast to the word of life “so that” he may boast in Christ, so that he may have happiness. Paul sees the spiritual endurance of the Philippians as the grounds for his boasting. If they are faithful, that will overjoy Paul when Christ returns. That what Paul is saying here.
The way I want us to hone in on this passage is with this reference to “the day of Christ.” Throughout the NT, Paul and the other writers of the NT use this phrase to refer to when Jesus will return. One day Christ will return. That is one of the most basic ideas of the NT.
(BTW, I do not believe that we are going through the events that the book of Revelations specifies. Maybe some of you have thought that. I do not believe that. This is a foretaste of that tribulation that is to come, but we, I don’t think, are not going through that tribulation.)
The return of Christ should be the day that all of us are striving for. Our vision, our sight should always be set on that day. That will be the final day of our salvation. It is then that we will see the Lord face to face. It is then when he will transform our lowly bodies into a body like he has. That day is in the future, though. That moment is not right now. That day is coming. It has not arrived.
As we wait for our Lord, as we wait for his return from heaven, the Lord has one simple command for us: “Endure.” We are called to endure. We are called to keep going, keep sharing, keep hoping.
One way the Lord has shown me my need to endure is through faithfulness in preaching. I really don’t like preaching to a camera. I really don’t like preaching to an empty church. Listen to what Paul says in 2 Tim 4:2:
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season
That reference to “in season and out of season” calls for long term faithfulness. The Lord is telling me, though, to keep going. Keep preaching. Keep sowing. Keep testifying.
What’s the Lord laying on your heart to endure through? Is it endure in hope? Endure through boredom? Through the monotony? Is it endure trusting him in the difficulty? Is it enduring through work? I’m not sure. What God is calling me to endure through is different than what he is calling you to endure through.
Nonetheless, we are called to endure. We are all called to endurance in trusting, thanking, and praising the Lord. We are called to endure in not complaining or disputing. No matter the circumstances, no matter the difficulty, or obstacle. Endurance, dear friend. Endure.
To conclude, I’d like to share some lyrics from a song by Mercy Me. The song is entitled, “Even If.” These lyrics are powerful and embody this notion of endurance. Listen to the lyrics.
They say it only takes a little faith o move a mountain. Well good thing, a little faith is all I have, right now. But God, when You choose to leave mountains unmovable; oh give me the strength to be able to sing: “It is well with my soul.” I know You’re able and I know You can Save through the fire with Your mighty hand. But even if You don't; My hope is You alone. I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt would all go away if you'd just say the word. But even if You don't My hope is You alone.