Think of yourself for a moment as this lander, and of the pressures of this life, and our sin, as dust. When sin accumulates in our lives it cuts off our connection to God’s power and presence. If we are to be the people God desires us to be, if we are to grow spiritually, then we need to deal with anything that gets between us and God. In Philippians Paul wrote one of the most glorious descriptions of the life of Jesus ever written. He describes Jesus as equal with God but humbling himself as a servant who was obedient even to death on the cross. Following this God exalted Jesus so that every knee would bow to him and every tongue confess he is Lord. In light of this Paul commands, continue to work out your salvation (Phil 2.12-13). He says work out, not work for. We cannot work for our salvation, as if we can earn it. Basically, this is saying God has granted us salvation, now we need to apply it to our living. We work out what it means to help our salvation shine: at home; in our jobs; in our leisure; in our thoughts; in our relationships; and our speech and our actions.
Our great joy is knowing as we seek God’s will and purpose, God is actively involved in helping us work out our salvation. We are not left to our own devices to struggle through, rather the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in the life of every believer. His presence within us is to help us to grow spiritually and to mature in our Christian faith. The work of the Holy Spirit is to shape us to be more Christ-like and the outcome of this is that we increasingly shine with God’s glory. (2 Cor 3.18) Earlier in 1.27 Paul described such a life as conduct worthy of the gospel. This raises a question for me. If I look back to yesterday, was my conduct worthy of the gospel? Did I just drift through the day, or was I somehow intentional about working out my salvation? As we work out our salvation we are more likely to be attuned to God, more inclined to seek his will and live in his ways.
Paul singles out one of the biggest problems that hinders Christians. “Do everything without grumbling or arguing,” (Philippians 2:14) It is suggested that Paul is echoing the words of the Old Testament. When the people of Israel were freed from slavery in Egypt they faced an uncertain future as they walked towards the Promised land. At the first sign of difficulty they began to grumble. It seemed they preferred the certainty of slavery to the uncertainty of freedom. (Exodus 16:3) This grumbling, dissatisfaction was their rebellion against Moses and more importantly against God. Grumbling is a serious sin. People who grumble will see their spiritual life crumble. If we are in a mind to do so, there is plenty to grumble about. Grumbling stirs people up, increases discontent. A little bit of grumbling can be like a snowball that leads to an avalanche of dissatisfaction. Grumbling is part of the grime which takes the sheen off the solar panels of our lives, separating us from God and leading towards the shutdown of our faith. Rather than grumbling Paul want us to … “become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky” (Phil 2:15) Now it is clearly, God has his work cut out with me! Blameless, pure and without fault, that is a high benchmark. That is why, you and I need to work out our salvation. Working out our salvation is like cleaning and polishing the solar panels, enabling us to be empowered by his radiant glory and goodness.
Praise God, who transforms us towards the righteousness of Christ. Faintly at first, but then with increasing radiance we begin to shine with his glory. Paul contrasts the brightness of Christian life with the darkness of the world. The world with its greed, envy, bitterness, war and the like, is in darkness. Against the canopy of darkness, Christians are to shine like stars in the sky. Paul’s picture is one of beauty, stars shining in the sky. We are to be luminaries, shining with the glory of God. Like Matariki, the southern cross or the milky way, the light God shines through us can act as a guide to direct others to him.
Paul adds we shine as we hold firmly to the word of life or in some translations, as we hold out the word of life. As we go into the week ahead, I invite you to both hold on to God’s word and to hold it out to others. Be light bearers and light sharers. So, shine brightly; be a beacon in the night and illuminate the path as God empowers you. Encourage people to lift up their eyes to Jesus, the bright and morning star.
- Have you ever looked into the sky in wonder? What is it about the night sky that intrigues humans and has inspired mythology in different cultures?
- On Mars, an accumulation of dust has blocked out InSights source of power – what tends to come between us and God, perhaps blocking our source of spiritual power?
- What speaks to you from the description of Jesus’ humility or of God exalting him in Phil 2.5-11?
- What are the basic spiritual exercises that help us to work out our salvation?
- Why do you think Paul lists grumbling as such a serious sin?
- Read Phil 2.15 & Rev 22.16 Why is the image of a star a helpful way to describe goodness and glory?
- What are ways we can be light bearers and light sharers?
Rev John Malcolm