Summary: Lessons taken from the church at Philippi.
Warnings, Exaltations, & Instructions – The Church at Philippi
Philippians 2:12 – 16
Therefore, 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, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life – in order that I may boast on the day of Christ, that I did not run or labor for nothing.
Exaltation – Obedience (Even When the Pastor’s Not Watching)
At my last church, I had a wonderful man and woman who used to come to church quite regularly. Every day I walked the dog right past their place, and I would often stop and talk to them as they sat on the porch. One day, I stopped to talk to them, and she invited me in to have a cookie and to chat. I did not have the dog with me this day, so I took her up on the offer. I walked into the house, and it was spotless. Everything was clean and dusted and in its place. There were several Bibles placed throughout the room, and one was even open near the husband’s sitting chair. We had a great visit, and I came away from the house with a great impression of the family.
Well, several weeks after this visit, I got a call that I needed to go down to this same house because they were in the middle of some type of emergency and they wanted to talk to a pastor. I went right down to see them. As I walked in the doorway, I was shocked that I was actually in the same place. Everything seemed like it was in disarray and was far from clean. Before, I had seen at least 5 Bibles in the room, and now, there were none visible to the naked eye. Where the Bibles once sat, there were ash trays and some beer caps. What was the difference? In the first visit, they had planned that I was coming, so they made the necessary adjustments to their life to look as if they were living the Christian lifestyle. On the second visit, it was a surprise, so they were not prepared, and I got a glimpse into what their lives were really like.
I don’t know why people change the way they act when I am around. When people find out that I am a pastor, they often change their speech and actions as if I am the one they have to please. However, even non-Christians often change their behavior when I am around to appear that they are more righteous than they actually are.
Paul approached this situation by giving an exaltation to the believers at Philippi. He gives them credit for obeying the word of God when he was there, and he extends this praise by telling them that they are doing it even more while he is absent. This is evidence of the health of this church. They truly loved God and were living according to the instructions Paul and the Lord had given them. That is a true testimony to their love of God, because, like the Scripture says, if we love God, we will obey His commands.
God knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows how prone we are to fall back into the ways of the world and still be able to put on a show at church. If you are honest with me and with God this morning, you know that there have been times that you have acted holy in church and walked out the door and your faith has not been evident in your everyday life. God knows this – He knows everything. That is why He didn’t tell anyone the day or the hour that He is coming back. If He did, we would all do what we wanted until right before He came back. Then, we would do what these folks did to me. We would make ourselves right and would be ready when He came. God addresses this in Matthew 24:42-44. He says, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.”