Pay Much Closer Attention

Shine Like Bright Lights – Philippians 2:14-16

I brought these flashlights and lights this morning as an object lesson. I’d kind of like to compare you folks to these flashlights and lights.

A have here today several types of lights. One is a small light I carry on my keychain. Its strengths are that it’s small and can go with me anywhere. I have this really old flashlight that my oldest son Kevin bought at a garage sale not too long ago. Its strength is that it’s rugged and handy to carry. I have this lantern that came in handy when we were camping back in August. We hung in over our picnic table at night so we could see what we were doing around the campsite.  Its strength is that it’s fairly bright and inexpensive to use. I also have this little green light that flips open and has two different settings to conserve power. Its strengths are its versatility. Carolyn would take this into her tent when we camped each night hanging it in the top of the tent and it would help her see to get the little guys down for the night.

You might be wondering how it is you compare to these flashlights and I’m going to get to that but first I want to talk to you about what we find in our passage at Philippians 2:14-16 today.

Philippians 2:14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.

We learned last week from Philippians 2:13 that it is for God’s good pleasure that we serve Him. So when it comes to daily Christian living how do we work for God’s good pleasure?

Paul wisely encouraged the Philippian believers about their faithfulness in verses 12 and 13. We discussed this last week. In verse 12 he says basically that they’ve been doing a good job of obeying, living for the advancement of the Gospel of Christ. But he takes the opportunity to remind them that they need to be working out there own salvation.

And remember that we talked about the fact that this is not working for your salvation. Since we can’t do anything to earn salvation Paul was not saying good works would earn them a spot in heaven. Some people have the mistaken notion that doing good or going to church earns their salvation. It’s not true. It’s like I’ve heard said recently, that “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sleeping in the garage makes you a car.

What Paul is saying is that Christians have a responsibility for working out—or living out their faith in Christ.

But he doesn’t just leave them with the admonition to live their faith. He also equips and encourages them. He does that in verse 13 when he says that they are not in this alone. They’re success doesn’t depend solely on their own strength or willpower. They have God at work in them to will and to do for His good pleasure.  

They work out their salvation—their faith—they do their part, while at the same time God works in them—God does His part. And that same truth applies to you today if you are a follower of Jesus Christ. You are to work out your faith—live it out—obey God’s Word and allow God’s Word to do its work in your life and you are to do that as God works in you giving you the will or the desire and the strength to obey Him.

Stop Complaining

What we discover when we arrive at verse 14 where it says to do all things without complaining and disputing, is that there are possible hindrances to living out our faith and hindrances to what God wants to work in us. And I think what Paul warns the Philippian believers about here—and we are warned by this—is that one of the most common hindrances to our effectively living out our faith is our willingness to complain and closely related to the sin of complaining is the ease with which we get involved in disputes or arguments.

Why did Paul bring up complaining and disputing or arguing? Evidently the believers at Philippi had been involved in this sin otherwise he would not have mentioned it here. And the fact that we find this in God’s Word, addressed to believers tells us that the church is not immune to the sin of discontent which shows itself in complianing.

The word translated complaining conveyed the idea of a bad attitude expressed in the form of grumbling. So, were they grumbling about God or to God because of their difficult circumstances—were they complaining about each other—were they grumbling about the color of the carpet in the sanctuary or were they arguing about how Paul should part his hair? Paul doesn’t get into specifics about what they’re complaining or arguing about but he does make it clear that they aren’t to do it.

And when we look at verse 14 again and see that he says do all things without complaining and disputing we realize that he’s putting emphasis on everything the follower of Christ does. And use of the word do in do all things—do everything— emphasizes the importance that there was to be no complaining at all. In everything, at all times they were to do all things without complaining.

Does this apply to us today? It certainly does. Why does this apply to us? I mean, we never argue and complain, right? We’re perfect saints aren’t we? We know better don’t we? Isn’t complaining and arguing something we justify pretty easily?

I have to tell you that I’ve had to re-examine my own attitude this week. I came to this passage unprepared for how the Lord was going to convict me in this area. I realized that I find it pretty easy to complain—about a lot of things.

I complain about the garage being a mess, or I complain that I have to move toys so I can exercise. I complain that I don’t have matching socks or that my favorite shirt isn’t clean. I complain when the car breaks down. I complain when the children are too noisy. Or I complain that I have a headache. (And those two complaints usually go together.)

I’ve had to take a close look at my life this week and admit to the Lord that I’ve sinned. I’ve had to admit that I don’t do all things without complaining. And I’ve had to admit that some of my complaining isn’t as obvious as you might think but it’s still a sin. I realized this week that one of my favorite ways to complain is with the phrase my kids know all too well. “Come on—what’s the deal with that.” Or I’ll pass by something I don’t like and I mumble under my breath, “Oh boy.”

The importance of this being placed in the scriptures for us, I think is emphasized by the ease with which we complain. Complaining is one sin we get so used to we hardly even notice it any more.

Why is it so easy for us to complain? Why is it so easy for us to get into disagreements? It’s probably because we each have an opinion. And our natural inclination is to want our own way isn’t it? And when we don’t get our way or we fear no one knows how we feel about an issue or we fear no one cares how we feel we think we must make our opinion known.

Some of us are less vocal than others about our opinions but we all seem to have our way of making our opinion known and that can often come in the form of a complaint. Whether it’s under our breath on the way out the door after church to one of our closest friends or in the car on the way home to our spouse, we have our ways of making our complaint known.

And even when we don’t outwardly express a complaint we can be guilty of complaining inwardly. I find this is the easiest form of complaining to practice. I know it’s a sin to complain and I know I should choose to overlook the minor offenses of others so I keep my mouth shut and complain to myself so that no one can accuse me of complaining. But I’m just as guilty as if I had voiced my complaint.

And Satan would like us to think that complaining is a harmless sin or that it’s not a sin at all. After all, we’re told we have our rights and you have to stand up for yourself because no one else is going to. And you have a right to be happy—so we’re told. And so we might think, what’s the big deal with complaining?

And what about arguing—there’s nothing wrong with a good debate is there? Arguing usually begins when two people have complained. And those two have differing opinions and each of the individuals think their opinion can’t be wrong. And of course they must stand up for themselves and protect their own right to their opinion.

So why the big deal over complaining and arguing—can’t I have an opinion and don’t I have the right to defend it?

Verses 15 and 16 tell me that complaining and arguing is a big deal. These verses show us why it’s so important that as a church and as followers of Christ we rid our lives of complaining and disputing. Why is it so important that we not complain and argue?

Stop Complaining for Your Own Benefit

The first reason believers should stop complaining is mentioned in verse 15—it is for the believers own benefit.

As followers of Christ, as His children, we ought to have a desire to be like Him. I believe most of us do have a desire to be obedient to God and His Word. But we struggle with this don’t we? We sin and we confess our sin. Sometimes again and again. It may be for you that it seems like you take two steps forward and you slip a step back every time you try to make progress in the Christian life.

We do need to understand that living a life that’s pleasing to God is a constant process. And none of us arrives over night. It is a long slow journey that we must live by faith in God that He is doing a work in us to will and to do His good pleasure (13).

Verse 15 says we ought to be blameless and harmless children of God without fault. Do you want to be more like Christ? Do you want to be obedient to His Word? Do you want to experience spiritual progress? Would you like to be able to experience real joy—even in the midst of difficulty? If you’ll rid your life of grumbling and complaining you’ll be well on your way to experiencing real joy in the Christian life.

And if it’s your desire to be more like Christ and you’ll stop complaining you’ll be well on your way to being blameless and harmless, children of God without fault (15).

Blameless here means free from fault or defect. The idea is that the believer is to be living a life that is above reproach. It doesn’t mean that you’ll be sinless and perfect—but you are called to live out the salvation that God has given you—you are to be making progress as a follower of Christ—you’re to be spiritually maturing. And in this process of maturing spiritually you are to be such an example to those without Christ that they won’t have anything to hold against you—they will have no reason for harsh criticism or disapproval of you.

The word harmless brings from the original languages a word that was used of pure wine that was unmixed with water and it was used of pure metal that was not alloyed which means it was unmixed with any inferior element. It brings the idea of being completely innocent, without deceit and harmless.

And then the phrase in the middle of verse 15—children of God without fault— basically repeats the idea we get from the word blameless. The child of God is to be without spot or blemish or faultless and unblameable by those without Christ.

Do you want to begin or continue to experience progress in your efforts to be pleasing to God? Rid your life of grumbling and complaining and you’ll be on the way to having your life conform to God’s desires for you as His child.

In Romans 16:19 Paul instructed the Romans to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil. In the world we live in its incredibly difficult to be innocent in what is evil and wise in what is good. It’s much easier for us to fill our heads, hearts and lives with filth than it is to fill our heads, hearts and lives with the things of God. But that’s exactly what we’re called to do.

Being without spot, without blemish, pure, faultless and above reproach would be impossible if it were completely up to the believer. But it isn’t completely dependant on the believer because God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him (Philippians 2:13 NLT). It is Jesus Christ, the spotless and blameless lamb of God who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy (Jude 24 NKJV).

Yes, it is to your benefit to stop complaining. There’s another reason to stop complaining.

Stop Complaining For The Benefit of the Unsaved

We should stop complaining for the benefit of the unsaved. Our complaining has a negative impact on the unsaved. We live in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation (15). I probably don’t have to illustrate that idea too much do I? The crooked and perverse generation is the same kind of people Solomon described (Prov. 2:13-15) when he spoke of those who leave the paths of uprightness To walk in the ways of darkness; Who delight in doing evil And rejoice in the perversity of evil; Whose paths are crooked, And who are devious in their ways. We all know what the world is like. It’s a wicked, unfair, corrupt place we live in. The word perverse is actually translated from the word that has at its root the idea of plotting against the saving purposes and plans of God. 

We live in a world where Satan, the great deceiver, is active and effective. His purpose is to see the Gospel of Jesus Christ thwarted in the lives of those that need Christ.

And I believe Satan finds real pleasure in finding us in the midst of this perverted and corrupt world with lives that are indistinguishable from those of the unsaved. He loves it when those who profess to be followers of Christ help him do his work.

But blameless and harmless describes the kind of people God wants us to be. And it’s important that we be blameless and harmless because the testimony of God’s church is at stake. Why is the testimony of God’s church so important? Because the church—that is the people that make up the church—we are the church—is to shine like a bright light in the darkness. We are to be like bright lights amidst the depravity and darkness of this world.

A child of God is in God’s family, but the unregenerate are alienated from Him. They are His enemies. God’s sovereign plan is to use His Word, administered by God’s people, to transform His enemies into His friends by the regenerating work of God’s Spirit. 1

Will it be easy? No—we’re in the midst of a perverse generation. Will God help us? Yes – verse 13 tells us so. Do we still need to do our part? Yes—working out—living out our salvation and being certain we aren’t complaining and arguing we can be bright lights shining that point the lost to Christ.

We are to be harmless and blameless and we are to proclaim the truth. As shining lights in the world, holding fast the word of life we are to hold forth, that is teach and preach the truth of God’s Word. It’s a very good thing for us to live the truths of God’s Word amidst this crooked and perverse generation so that we are harmless and blameless.  But it’s only half of the picture. We are to be as bright lights amidst the darkness, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ to the lost and dying world we live in. We are not only to live the truth we are to speak the truth. This is what we see in the Great Commission, Matthew 28:19-20. We’re told to,

19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (NASB)

If we’ll be obedient to God we will have a positive influence on the world around us. We won’t lead everyone to saving faith in Christ—there will be those who reject Christ—but the obedient follower of Christ will be a bright light making known the truth of God’s Word and the light will also expose the evil of this world. But as Matthew 5:16 teaches the obedient follower of Christ will let his light shine before men in such a way that they will see his good works, and glorify his Father who is in heaven. The good news is that there will be those who turn to Christ because of the Godly lifestyle and the proclamation of the Gospel by the faithful followers of Christ.

There’s a third reason we need to stop complaining.

Stop Complaining For The Benefit of Your Spiritual Leaders

Verse 16 says, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. We need to stop complaining for the benefit of our spiritual leaders.

But note first that the day of Christ is not to be confused with the day of the Lord that Paul speaks of in 1 Thessalonians 5:2 that will come like a thief in the night. John MacArthur notes that the Day of the Lord,

“focuses on the punishment of the unrepentant wicked…But the day of Christ will be solely for believers (cf. Phil. 1:6, 10). Although it will also be a time of judgment, in the sense that believers will “appear before the judgment seat of Christ,” the focus will be only on rewards, not punishment, “so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” 2

So on the day of Christ Paul wanted to be able to look back and rejoice that his efforts hadn’t been wasted. He would experience great joy at the day of Christ if those he had lead and taught and instructed, followed his teaching and were obedient to God’s commands. There’s also a present joy in seeing those you’re leading follow Christ.

Do you want to bring great joy to those who lead you spiritually? Would you like to bring great joy to your pastor?

I’ve told some of you before that for many years I tried really hard to find something to do with my life other than being a pastor. I grew up a PK—a pastor’s kid. For 18 years I saw the good the bad and the ugly of what it was like to be a pastor. And for many years as an adult I didn’t want to have to face the difficulty. What finally convinced me that I should stop running from God was the fact that the peace, joy, hope and contentment God gives is far beyond any reward people can come up with and its far beyond any disappointment people can hand out. Coupled with the peace of God that He would be there for me during the times of difficulty that come with Pastoral ministry and the strongest of desires to lead and teach others to follow and obey Jesus, I realized the difficulty I may face with people as their pastor was minimized in light of the potential for showing, teaching and leading others toward lives of faithful obedience to God.

So I can tell you that there is great joy in seeing those you are called to shepherd toward loving God and loving people do so without grumbling and complaining. It is a great joy to see those you shepherd maturing in Christ.

If we aren’t to complain then what should we do? It’s always best to find a positive to replace a negative in your life. So I want to give you some homework to work on this week. I want you to closely examine your attitude this week and when you find you are tempted to complain I want you to recite to yourself—silently or out loud—Philippians 4:4. Can anyone tell us without looking what Philippians 4:4 says?

Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

Now I’m not saying you should become holier than thou Christian robots that wobble through life quoting scripture at every turn. But I do think it’s helpful to remind ourselves about what God’s Word says when we’re tempted to sin. I want to challenge you to face each difficulty—each opportunity to complain—as an opportunity to rejoice in the Lord always. Let the truths of God’s Word that we’ve examined together today take root and bear fruit in your life.

I want to come back to my lights for a moment. I already pointed out that each of these lights has its strengths. But you should know that each of these has weaknesses. Even though my pocket light is very easy to take everywhere it’s not terribly powerful and it’s light is red so it does weird things with colors. Kevin’s old flashlight isn’t too pretty anymore and the lens is broken. Even though this lantern is inexpensive to operate you still have to have fuel for it and its size makes it difficult to take everywhere. As for my green light its best suited for hanging from something or sitting on the table—its doesn’t make a good flashlight.

Maybe you’ve figured out how we compare to these lights but if not let me tell you. If you’re a follower of Christ you still have your weaknesses and they may be different than the person sitting next to you. You also each have your strengths, which may or may not be different from the person next to you.

In light of your strengths and weaknesses let me warn you about something you may have discovered already. If you’re looking for the perfect church, you haven’t found it. We are all human and though we have strengths we also have our flaws.

But the beauty of being followers of Christ is that we each have the Holy Spirit living in us. And with the power of God living in us working in us giving us the desire and the strength to obey him, we all have in common what these lights have in common. When you turn out the light—when you’re surrounded by darkness—these lights all shine their brightest.

Let’s all ask God to help us rid our lives of grumbling and complaining so that we can each shine our brightest for Christ pointing the lost and dying is this world to Jesus.


Kevin A. Pierpont
10/10/04

1 Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

2 MacArthur, J. F. (.). The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Philippians (electronic ed.) (Php 2:17).