Philippians 2:14-16

Philippians 2:14-16
14Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15that 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, 16holding 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.
Do all things without complaining and disputing… – Think about the Christian brothers and sisters you know personally. Are there any who stand out in your mind who exemplify Philippians 2:14-15? For me there are several names that immediately spring to mind – Larry Vizard and Catherine Figueroa, for example. Of course there are many devoted Christ followers who may come to your remembrance as you ponder these verses. My intent isn’t to single anyone out for praise, or to hurt anyone by not mentioning them. The point is that there are some people who always seem to reflect the joy of the Lord in their faces, and in their words and deeds.
What is it that sets these folks apart in our hearts and minds? In a word, it is love…
John 13:33-35
33Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you. 34A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
The setting here is once again that cozy upper room where Jesus has just shared His last Passover meal with His disciples, washed their feet, and instituted the Lord’s supper, telling His beloved inner circle of disciples that He would soon be betrayed, and would not be able to share such a meal with them again until He establishes the New Jerusalem. In this tender, intimate moment, I love the way that Jesus addresses these grown men – “Little children…” Think of the turmoil in their minds as they tried (unsuccessfully) to internalize all that Jesus had shared with them.
But I digress…
The love that Jesus talks of here is the divine love – ἀγάπη agapē – which is beyond human capacity, and can only be shared by people insofar as they themselves have received it by the power of the Spirit of God Almighty…
Galatians 5:22
22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
It is this divine love that drives the folks we think of when we consider Philippians 2:14-15. By this gift of ἀγάπη agapē, received from God’s Holy Spirit, they are able to “do all things without complaining or disputing” often under terrible circumstances. Paul will expound much more on this later on in Philippians. But as we strive to be more like the brothers and sisters we think of when we contemplate Philippians 2:14-15, Paul reminds us that our target audience isn’t other believers. We can certainly inspire and exhort our fellow Christians with self-sacrifice and devotion, but it is not they for whom we serve.
Certainly, our most important desire and goal in Christian life is to please, honor, love, and serve our God and Savior, Jesus. But we also have a sacred calling to live godly lives in the face of the unbelievers around us…
Philippians 2:15
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,
Who can deny that our modern society is indeed a “…crooked and perverse generation…“? Let’s take a quick look at the word διαστρέφω diastrephō translated here as “perverse.” It means to distort, turn aside, to oppose, or plot against the saving purposes and plans of God; to turn aside from the right path; or to pervert or corrupt. Paul warns us multiple times about those who pervert the Gospel for their own (often greed-driven) purposes. For example, as Paul was returning to Jerusalem at the end of his third missionary journey, he gave this impassioned warning to the Ephesian elders…
Acts 20:28-32
28Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. 31Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. 32So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
We see these perversions all around us in our current generation, even within the church, just as Paul prophesied to Timothy…
2 Timothy 3:1-4
1But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
Yet even today, many unbelievers understand the rudimentary facts of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are aware, for example, that the Bible says…
2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
…and although they remain unbelievers for the time being, they are nevertheless watching to see if they can discern the budding and ripening of the fruit of the Spirit within us. As Christians who confess Jesus as Lord, we are being continually scrutinized by such unbelievers. It is they before whom we must live out our new lives in Christ as “blameless and harmless, children of God without fault.

I’m reminded of the words of Steven Curtis Chapman’s song, “The Change”…

“The Change”
Well I got myself a T-shirt that says what I believe
I got letters on my bracelet to serve as my ID
I got the necklace and the key chain
And almost everything a good Christian needs, yeah
I got the little Bible magnets on my refrigerator door
And a welcome mat to bless you before you walk across my floor
I got a Jesus bumper sticker
And the outline of a fish stuck on my car
And even though this stuff’s all well and good, yeah
I cannot help but ask myself–
What about the change
What about the difference
What about the grace
What about forgiveness
What about a life that’s showing
I’m undergoing the change, yeah
I’m undergoing the change
Well I’ve got this way of thinking that comes so naturally
Where I believe the whole world is revolving around me
And I got this way of living that I have to die to every single day
‘Cause if God’s Spirit lives inside of me, yeah
I’m gonna live life differently
I’m gonna have the change
I’m gonna have the difference
I’m gonna have the grace
I’m gonna have forgiveness
I’m gonna live a life that’s showing
I’m undergoing the change
What about the change
What about the difference
What about the grace
What about forgiveness
I want to live a life that’s showing
I’m undergoing the change

Make no mistake, though. It is Christ who judges us, not these unbelievers or our Christian siblings. Nor – as we have seen previously – does God judge our works to grant or deny us salvation and eternal life, which have already been purchased for us in the precious currency of the Blood of Jesus. Hallelujah! Nevertheless, God calls us here in Philippians to be His lights in a world controlled by satan that grows darker with each passing day. And I think you can all guess where I’m going here…

Matthew 5:14-16
14“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Jesus has called us out of darkness to walk in light…
Ephesians 5:8
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light
_____________________________
Verse 16…holding fast the word of life…
The only other place in scripture where the phrase “word of life” is found is…
1 John 1:1-4
1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— 2the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.
Notice that in this passage, ?Word? is capitalized. In the Greek, it is λόγος logos, and is, of course, none other than Jesus Christ Himself?
John 1:14
14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Revelation 19:13
He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.
Probably the greatest tragedy in the modern church is the widespread abandonment of the commitment to holding fast to this Word of life. Pastor Steve often preaches that we do not worship the Word of God, but the God of the Word. Yet we hold the Word of God in very high regard…
We believe that all the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God, fully inspired and without error in the original manuscripts, and that they are the infallible rule of faith and practice.

[Refuge Church Statement of Faith – Retrieved from http://refugechurch.info/new-to-refuge/what-we-believe]

In this, of course we agree with the Bible itself which states…
2 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
We know that God Himself magnifies His Word even above His Holy Name.
Psalm 138:2
I will worship toward Your holy temple,
And praise Your name
For Your lovingkindness and Yourtruth;
For You have magnified Your wordabove all Your name.
Yet, divergence from faithful belief in and obedience of the Word of God is rampant in today’s society worldwide, the vast majority of whom neither believe the Bible is God’s Word, nor believe in the existence of God at all. Sadly, most members and leaders of the modern so-called “Christian” church in the western world are little different from the world in general in regard to believing in and obeying the Word of God. This trend of disbelief and disobedience is nothing new, and it has had disastrous results that echo down into a lost, violent, and harsh world from the very dawn of history…
Genesis 3:1-5
1Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'”
2And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'”
4Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.
Note that the enemy of our souls began his assault upon us and upon God by questioning the truth of God’s Word. Thus sin and death itself entered into our universe.
The Renaissance in Europe at the end of the Middle Ages, along with the so called “enlightenment” of modern philosophy and science which brought such dynamic expansion of scientific discovery and knowledge also brought a widespread questioning of the validity of God’s Word, replacing it with “rationalism” which is just a fancy word meaning human pride in mankind’s own intrinsic (actually God-given) powers of thought and dominion over the universe. This movement gave rise to various forms of Biblical criticism which first called into question the divine inspiration of Biblical scripture, and then the accuracy and believability of the Biblical narrative itself. Then, with the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in 1859, the very existence of the Creator God first was called into question, then in the minds of most people effectively “disproven” until, in today’s world, Darwinian evolution driven by nothing but random chance and animal survival instinct over eons of time is assumed as a given fact among virtually all scientists, academics, and even in the society at large.
It is not surprising that this lie has such widespread appeal. If there is no Creator God, then there is no objective power to define the rules of morality. Into this vacuum steps mankind in his arrogance stating that nothing is intrinsically right or wrong, and that everyone must create his own individual moral code, with no one’s personal morality being intrinsically any better or worse than anyone else’s. Thus any behavior which the Bible calls sin may be justified, and even celebrated, because there is no yardstick by which to measure whether it is actually morally right or wrong.
The secular humanist, liberal, relativistic philosophy which is the logical result is then touted as freedom and tolerance, with almost all people failing to recognize how neatly it draws them into the snare set by the serpent so long ago. In his pride, mankind generally believes they have been liberated from the very idea of a tyrannical and judgmental God, failing to recognize that they have actually traded the love of a devoted Father and Creator in for the deceit of an enemy who seeks only to steal, kill, and destroy. Tragically, this trend toward disbelief in the Truth of the Bible, carrying with it enslavement to the evil one, is as widespread within the so-called Christian church in the western world today as in the general society. We find prophecies of this end-time apostasy throughout the New Testament, most notably from Jesus Himself…
Matthew 24:3-14
3Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
4And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. 5For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. 6And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. 8All these are the beginning of sorrows.

9“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. 10And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

But let’s face the facts. The Gospel is an outlandish story. Has God really said that a virgin could have a baby? Well, yes He did…
Isaiah 7:14
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
or that God could become a man…
John 1:14
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
or that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Well, yes! First He predicted it…
Matthew 17:9
Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.”
…then He did it…
Mark 16:1-7
1Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. 2Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” 4But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large. 5And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.
6But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. 7But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”
1 Corinthians 1:18-20
18For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” [Isaiah 29:14]
20Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
We hold fast the Word of Life. We agree with Paul in proclaiming all Scripture as inspired by God. And in those times when the evil one comes whispering a lie questioning God’s word, we think of the story of Jesus cleansing a man’s son of an evil spirit…
Mark 9:17-24
17Then one of the crowd answered and said, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. 18And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.”
19He answered him and said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.” 20Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth.
21So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?”
And he said, “From childhood. 22And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
23Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”
24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
However, the phrase ?holding fast? here is the Greek word ἐπέχω epechō which means to have or hold upon, apply, to observe, attend to; to give attention to; to hold towards, hold forth, present. Uniquely among the translations I looked at the KJV renders this word as “hold forth.” I think perhaps the KJV has it right by choosing this meaning for the word in addition to “hold fast.” We are not called to simply absorb and grasp the Gospel of Jesus for ourselves. We are called by Jesus to share it or hold it forth to others?
Mark 16:15
And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”
_____________________________
Verse 16 (cont) …so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.
Paul isn’t uncertain of whether or not he has run and labored in vain. He is confident that the seed sown among the Philippians did indeed fall on fertile ground. Matthew Henry’s commentary has an interesting insight into this passage…

It is a great joy to ministers when they perceive that they have not run in vain, nor laboured in vain; and it will be their rejoicing in the day of Christ, when their converts will be their crown.
[Commentaries :: Matthew Henry. Retrieved from http://www.blueletterbible.org/commentaries/mhc/]

In this commentary, Henry also quotes Paul from Thessalonians?
1 Thessalonians 2:19-20
19For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? 20For you are our glory and joy.
For myself, I must say that my joy in hearing our Lord Jesus say to me…
Matthew 25:21
“Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’
…could only be surpassed by hearing Him say the same to my sons or to some other lost person to whom I had witnessed the Gospel during the course of my Christian life.

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