My wife constantly has to remind me to fasten my seat belt in the car. I know it’s the safe thing to do, and I know it’s the law. I don’t have an excuse like maybe its uncomfortable or it doesn’t fit right. No, none of those are true for me. The truth is I simply forget. I know it’s the right thing to do, but I don’t think about until there is a police officer right behind me. In our lives, we may know what the right thing to do sometimes, but we simply forget. In those times, God may send his spirit, a pastor, family member or friend to gently remind us to do the right thing or to act the right way. Our passage today is in Philippians chapter 2.
Paul is reminding the church in Philippi how to act.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Do all things without complaining and disputing, 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, 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.
Philippians 2:12-16 (NKJV)
The thing that I find interesting is Paul’s word choice. When he wrote about them being a light that shines among the crooked and perverse generation, I wonder if Paul had read Matthew’s manuscripts. Matthew says something very similar in the 5th chapter and verses 14-16.
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor 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. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:14-16 (NKJV)
Regardless, Paul is reminding the church that they are called out to stand out. Not unlike the world today, the world then had created its own culture. They had blurred the lines between right and wrong. Paul is gently reminding them not to argue and fight, not to complain all the time, and not to be part of the world’s culture. If we look deep into our lives will we find blurred line? Do we complain, argue, dispute, tell dirty jokes, gossip, or swear? All these things can be found in this world, but God has called us to stand out from the world, to be different. When I was a youth, my youth leader had a saying, “I know I shouldn’t do it, but it looks good and feels good so I’m going to do it anyway.” He used this as a gentle reminder of how easy it is to give into sin. When he would catch us doing something wrong or hear us say something or find out that we had done something wrong, we heard this phrase. I think that just like us, the church in Philippi needed a gentle reminder to step out from what the world was about. You may wonder why I think that this is a gentle reminder and not Paul yelling at the church for making mistakes. I am a student of leadership styles. You have one style that I like to call the boot camp style. An example of this would be… (IN A YELLING AND ANGRY VOICE) “You worthless piece of garbage you can’t do anything right. You are not worth my time. You need to shape up and do it the way I told you to!!!” Now when Paul is speaking here in Philippians 2, he states, “beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence…” The word beloved suggest that it is being said with compassion. Then, you factor in Paul praising the Philippians in the beginning of this passage. Paul is basically saying you have always obeyed even without me looking over your shoulder. A good leader is going to correct his followers, but unlike the boot camp style, it is done in a manner that builds up, not breaks down. Paul says that they’re heading in the right direction, then points out something that they need to remember to work on, and finally closes the thought with an encouragement. This encouragement is found in him knowing that a day will come where, through them finishing their work he has not ran in vain. Today, if you find yourself as a Christian that has blurred the lines and has given into the things of this world, understand that God is not yelling at you. He doesn’t think that you are a piece of garbage. God does have a plan for our lives and want us to walk in it, but when we stray, He gently says to us “beloved, I love you and I want the best for you, so please stand out and walk in obedience.” We have a light to shine to show the world around us that we serve a God that loves them. The only way that this light can shine is if we stand out from among the evil in the world. God is giving us all a gentle reminder to put our Holy Spirit seat belt on as we travel through life and let Him help us work out our own salvation. We need to stand out and be recognized as God’s children, and only He can help us do this.
God, We pray that in our daily lives we can step out from among this world. Sometimes we forget both the big and small things and need to be reminded of how we are to live. God, we thank you for your spirit that leads us, and we thank you for the people that you put in our lives to gently correct us. Now, as we continue our day, we ask that you would be with us, lead us, guide us, and provide for us. We pray this in the name of our All in All, Jesus Christ. Amen.