Summary: Sermon 5 in a study in Philippians
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15 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, 16 holding fast the word of life,”
I have told this story in detail in the past so I won’t go into the whole thing again here, but when I first surrendered to the Lord in faith I was on leave from the Air Force. When I went back to my station in Louisiana a couple of weeks later there was a notable and immediate difference in the way those who had been my closest buddies related to me. They were distant, looking at me with what seemed like suspicion. I’m not even sure they realized it but I did. I didn’t expect it and it came as quite a surprise that I no longer fit in with them; nevertheless the difference was there and it was enough to change my circle of friends and my entire lifestyle from what had existed before I left.
I was different. Christians are different. The Apostle Paul says some things in these verses of our study today – uses some words – that clearly define that difference.
Sadly, I don’t think his words can be applied quite often to the average Christian in our modern day society, and I include myself in that assessment.
Just because I had that early experience after my conversion that doesn’t give me any bragging rights. Whereas the Apostle Paul was able to say in all humility, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1), I would be more honest to say, “If you see me acting manifestly Christlike, mark the calendar and if at all possible get a photograph”
And I say that with only a minimum of humor intended. I’m sure most of us know that feeling. Whatever others might say of us or think of us, we know ourselves inside and just knowing Paul was able to say with no false humility, ‘imitate me as I also imitate Christ’, makes us at times feel very inadequate indeed.
You’ll see what I mean as we go and as we look closely at the words he uses in these verses. As I studied and considered them I was deeply convicted and I am now prepared to share the wealth with you.
WHAT PEOPLE SEE
Here is the whole of verse 14. “Do all things without grumbling or disputing”. And that is not the end of the sentence, which makes this admonition all the more interesting. Verse 15 begins with ‘that’, meaning ‘so that’, as in ‘for the purpose of’.
So when I first came to it, and reread the previous verses and went on to read the following verses, at first I thought it strange that he would tell them at this particular juncture to avoid grumbling and disputing.
Then I realized that while there may be characteristics and behaviors in Christians that are inappropriate and undesirable and ought to be dealt with according to Biblical admonition, these are two things that people outside the church can see and which could irreparably damage the church’s testimony to the world around it.
I never knew the man myself but I remember a Pastor I worked with in Southern California telling me once of a fellow Pastor he had known who tended to be pugilistic.
He said on more than one occasion when electricians or plumbers or other professional people were called upon to fix something around the church, if this Pastor disagreed with something they were doing or with the final bill he would confront them with an attitude of belligerence and would finally end up in a fist fight with them in the parking lot.
Well that’s an extreme case, of course, but the fact is that more than we realize people of the world do watch us and they do see what goes on among us, and if they witness the grumbling and disputing that is born of selfishness and discontentedness going on in our ranks as much as in any secular setting, we render our testimony useless and commend Christ to no one.
Now before I go further with this let me explain what is meant when we talk about the ‘world’ or the ‘people of the world’ in this context.
We do not mean the world in any material sense, as in talking about the planet itself or the general population of the planet.
What is meant by using that term in contrast to the body of believers, that is, the children of God, is the mentality and basic life of those who are not believers in Christ. It is the world view and mindset of those who are not children of God. They are in fact, children of the world. They belong to this world and a fallen world system that is diametrically opposed to the mind of Christ and the Spirit of Christ.