Christians are called on to do things that do not come naturally to us.
When presented with opportunities to display our love for Christ through our words or actions, our natural tendency is to grumble, complain or come up with excuses. Like an out of shape athlete, we groan and complain when our coach tells us to work out more or to run an extra lap.
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he writes:
“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life – in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.” Philippians 2:14-18
The Lord does not want us to “argue” or “complain” like the Israelites constantly did in the desert. Their grumbling brought grief to God and He ended up punishing them as a result. Grumbling is really rebelling against what God wants Christians to do. A grudging obedience ends up being no obedience at all.
God does not want us second-guess Him or think about how we might escape our responsibilities as Christians. It really becomes an attitude of the heart. The Lord lovingly corrects our heart-attitude if it needs to be made. And sometimes, He allows us to go through a process of difficult circumstances to grow in our faith and trust. This is why the Bible teaches that the Lord disciplines those he loves.
Although the process of being disciplined can be very painful, there is a reason for it. When we accept our circumstances, knowing God has placed us here for a specific reason and purpose, we can rid ourselves of complaining and arguing. This is a process that allows us to be “pure and blameless” in a crooked and depraved world.
What does it mean to become blameless and pure?
To be blameless is to be without fault— a high moral standard. To be pure means to be innocent or simple. The Greek word for simple could be used to describe “pure water” or “unalloyed metals.” In order for water or a metal to be pure, it must go through a process. We remember that Paul’s purpose for this letter is not only for them to develop and mature in the faith, but also to be a witness to unbelievers.
What does it mean to be children of God, without fault?
The Greek word used for ‘without fault’ was sometimes used as a tombstone inscription describing the character of young child who had died prematurely without the stain of life. We are all children of God by faith. In the same sense, we will die as children “without fault” despite the ugly stains of this world. Through Christ, we are considered pure and blameless before God.
What about the metaphor of a person shining like a star?
The contrast between believers and unbelievers should be like daylight and darkness. In the days of old, a navigator of a ship could look out into the starry night to guide their ship. The stars shined so brightly in the dark sky that you could not miss them. The world ought to navigate their course to God by the shining example of Christian believers.
Have you ever noticed that when you live in the city, it’s very difficult to see the stars at night. Only when you are away from the competing lights of a city can you see how brightly the stars shine. In the same way, Christians need to be “set apart” or “made holy” from the city lights in order for people to see how brightly our lights are shining.
What do you call a person who has the leading role in a movie? What do you call an athlete who is the best player on the field? Typically we call them a movie star or a sports star. People love to follow their celebrities and be associated with them. They go to their movies and listen to their songs. They watch them on TV and buy their jerseys. God is asking us to be His star. He wants us to stand out in a crowd by being different. Like any star, people will notice you and want to be like you. Through Christ, we can shine our faith like a flashlight as we hold out the word of life. Our light will allow people to see the right path God has set before them and not stumble into sin and unbelief. This light we “hold out” to others is the “word of life” or the gospel message.
Is Paul’s boasting an appropriate Christian response?
Paul boasts not out of pride on what he has accomplished, but what God has accomplished through him.
On Judgment Day, “the day of Christ”, Paul will finally be able to glory in the fact that all his labors in Philippi had not been wasted. Like a coach who has trained is young athletes to run for the prize, there will be a sense of elation when the athletes he trained receive the crown of glory. Like a father who sees all of his adult children remain strong in the faith and become mature Christians, there will be a cause of boasting in what Christ has done.
Paul’s sacrifice was worth it
A drink offering was part of the daily sacrifices the Israelites performed to share in their devotion to the Lord. Animals would be sacrificed and wine would be poured on top of the sacrifice. All his life, Paul has sacrificed his life for the purpose of the gospel. Now, writing in prison, he recognizes that his life may come to an end. His life would be poured out like a drink offering on top of the sacrificial service of the Phillippian church.
Paul regarded believers’ lives of obedience to the gospel as living sacrifices to the Lord. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship (Romans 12:1).” At this prospect, Paul rejoices and encourages the church to rejoice with him.