The Life Worth Living – Part 4

The Life Worth Living – Part 4

Shine like stars surrounded by darkness. The darker it gets the brighter you should shine.

Let me just say before we get started this morning, it’s good to see all those who are visiting with us this today.  I’d love to meet you.  I’ll be standing around afterwards and so if this is your first time at China Grove, First Baptist Church just come and introduce yourself and let me get to know you a little bit.  We’re just excited to have you here.  I’m excited that this room is almost full.  I was sitting there thinking, I tell you, since I’ve been here in September, God is certainly working in this church.  He is working here.  I think He was working here long before I came.  You can see that.  So, it’s grateful that He called me to be a part of what He is doing here and He’s called you to be a part of that as well.  And so, it’s just such a wonderful thing.  And it’s just such a wonderful thing to worship Him for what He’s doing.

If you have your Bibles open them up, please.  I’d invite you to turn to Philippians chapter 2 verses 14 through 18 this morning.  As your turning, I want to tell you a little bit about my childhood.  I was a teenager at one time, so all you teenagers, you know that I was there not too long ago.  It’s been awhile.  I heard that.  When I was a high school teacher right out of college, I was 22 years old my first-year teaching. Do you know how old those teenagers thought I was?  They thought I was 40.  I’m like what?!  40?  So anyway, back in my youth, in my younger days, our youth ministry had an extreme adventure aspect to him.  And what that meant is, our youth leader would take a small group of us and we would do indoor/outdoor rock climbing.  We would hike the Appalachian Trail, which almost got attacked by a bunch of deer one morning, ’cause me and my buddy left some beef jerky outside the tent.  You’re not supposed to do that.  But caving was by far my favorite and I’ve talked about it before and I’ve got a lot of stories about caving or spelunking that are just amazing.  That was my favorite thing to do.

One because it was such a challenge for me, a football player and offensive lineman.  When you came to those cracks and crevasses that you know you had to fit through or you weren’t getting out, you made yourself fit.  Now I only got stuck once, but that’s for a different sermon. This sermon is we had belly crawled through a probably a 25-foot tunnel in this cave. We’re way, way, way down deep. It was a cave in Tennessee. We belly crawled through this really tight, I mean, really tight, you could feel the walls, for me.  Now skinny people not so much, but for me it was tight.

But then we got 25 feet in and it opened up into this massive room. This huge room with all these stalagmites and stalactites. I think, I don’t know if that’s the right word, but you know, the rock formations that go up and down, and they’re gorgeous. And so, we circle up the adults, the youth we all circle in this room. And you know, this is where our Bible study was going to take place.  We’re two hours in, we’re tired, we had crawled in our bellies, and so this is where we’re going to have a Bible study.  It’s fantastic.

And so the youth pastor started talking about how these stalagmites and stalactites form so slowly.  Like you know, centimeters a year, and that how they were forming and being formed when Jesus walked on the planet.  Now that’s just mind-blowing when you’re standing in a cave that’s got all these formations thousands of years old.  They were there when Jesus was walking on the other side of the planet, but then he did something that was incredible.  He made every single one of us turn out our headlamps.  Now I have never in my life experienced darkness like this.  There’s no light, none, zero.  It’s complete absence of any light.  It’s just when we were told not to move, we would have tripped over stuff.  And then in the stillness, ’cause we were all quiet, we hear a snap.  The youth pastor strikes a match and he holds it up and he just holds it there.  And it’s just a little bit longer and another adult struck a match.  And five adults, struck the match with each one causing more and more light to enter into the room.

But just that single match penetrated the darkness.  And then, after all that and the light was shining, our youth pastor read this verse from Daniel 12:3. “Those who have insight will shine like the bright expanse of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”  Now in that room, in that moment that verse and in the verse we look at in Philippians, takes on a whole new meaning.  That we as Christians are called to shine a light into the darkness of the world.  And the Apostle Paul is going to write and say something very similar in his letter today.

But we know light is important, right?  I mean we all know how important light is.  Light in that moment was important to get me out of a cave.  Light’s important at night.  See I learned this last night.  Light’s important at night.  When you’re taking your son to bed and he’s got a little green Army soldier on the floor and you can’t see it.  It would have been nice to have saw it.  And you know it’s one of the ones with the pointy little thing, and it really hurts.  Light’s important to guide ships into safe harbor.  Light is important for our emotional makeup.  How excited were you Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday?  Oh my gosh, when I saw that I was like what is that in the sky?  And then it was warm.  Light is good for our emotional makeup.  Now you might not be like me, but I don’t like the winter ’cause it’s darker.  It’s dreary.  The time is different.  I like light.  I like the energy I get from it.  It just makes me happy.  And yeah, I might be by myself, but it’s just something different about our emotional makeup when there is sunshine and it’s warm.

I heard this story this week.  I’m going to read it ’cause I wanna make sure I get it right.  There was a battleship that’s out doing routine maneuvers and it’s under heavy weather.  The captain of the ship was worried about the deteriorating weather conditions, so he had stayed on the bridge throughout the whole exercises to make sure his ship was protected.  One night, the lookout shouted to the captain “a light bearing straight ahead!”  So the captain goes, “is it stationary or is it moving?”  And the lookout goes, “it’s stationary” which meant this battleship was on a direct collision course for whatever this light was in front of them.  So the captain, he says, “send this reply through the little lights.  Immediately send they were on a collision course, I advise you to change course, 20 degrees East.”  That’s reasonable, so here comes the reply.  They see the light flashed back at them and it says “you change course 20 degrees West.”  Now that agitated a battleship captain.  OK, so he sent back.  He goes.  “I am a captain.  Change course 20 degrees East now!”  Now here comes the response.  “I am a second-class seaman you had still better change course 20 degrees West.”  You can imagine this captain is furious right?  So he goes send this message back.  “I am a battleship.  Change course 20 degrees right now!”  Back comes the reply, “I am a lighthouse.”  The captain immediately changed course.  Light is important. Do you know what would happen if the lighthouse would have been there?  The ship would have ran right up onto the rocks.  Light is so important.

For slaves, the North Star was vitally important.  Many of you have learned or heard that song Follow the Drinking Gourd.  Now this past summer me and TJ were at the beach.  We were doing some night swimming and that we were and I looked up.  Now I don’t know the difference between the big one or the little one except the big ones bigger.  But I looked up and I saw a dipper.  And I said, “well, there’s the Big Dipper.”  And so now TJ will look out.  He was like there was just this cool little moment, father and son.  And he even now he goes.  “Look, there’s the Dipper.”  Now it’s just a bunch of stars.  But in that moment, I remembered that song Follow the Drinking Gourd.  For slaves, the North Star, which they could find by locating the dippers, was a guiding light to their freedom.

What Paul says today, or what we’re going to read today, as Christians, Christ is a guiding light for our freedom.  Not from human slavery, but from the slavery that sin creates in our life.  And as Christians, we are called to shine the light of Jesus into the darkness so others would follow it and so others would see it.  We’re going to see that we can shine like stars surrounded by darkness.

Here’s what the Apostle Paul says in Philippians 2:14-18.  “Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world, by holding firm to the word of life. Then I can boast in the day of Christ that I didn’t run or labor for nothing. But even if I am poured out as a drink offering on the sacrificial service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.  In the same way you should also be glad and rejoice with me.”

Now we’re going to unpack those verses, but we’re kind of going to start in the middle first and talk about shining like stars.  And I’ll ask you this question, do you know that the world is watching?  The world is watching us.  The world is watching Christians.  There was a lady who is sitting at a traffic light.  We’ve all been here.  We’ve all done this.  She was sitting at a light.  She was behind a truck.  Light turns green.  Guess who didn’t move?  The truck.  He’s sitting there texting and she can see it.  So the lady politely just beep beep.  We’ve been there.  I’ve done.  I text at stoplights ’cause you don’t text and drive.  I’ve been beeped at, weekly.  But the guy didn’t move.  So, then she starts really getting irritated.  She lays down on the horn.  Guy didn’t move.  So, then she gets road rage.  So, she sticks her head out the window and the words coming out of her mouth, nobody should ever say, right?  And the hand gestures that she is making, nobody should ever make.  So, you get my idea.  She is mad.  The light turns yellow and right before it turns red, guess what happens?  The guy in the truck he leaves.  Guess who has to sit through the intersection again?

Now she is really mad now.  The guy’s gone, but she is still fussing and cussing and gesturing. Then she notices the blue light behind her and then she notices the police officer standing beside her car with his gun drawn.  She rolls her window down, rudely, “what are you doing?”  And the policeman says, “well, I was sitting behind you watching and I saw the fish magnet, the Christian fish magnet, on your bumper.  And I thought maybe she must have stolen that car.”  The world is watching.

Now that’s funny.  We’ve all been there.  You’ve probably been there, and if you haven’t been in that situation, how about a ballgame?  We laugh because it’s true.  The worst thing I think I’ve ever done was when I got ejected from a wrestling match because two weeks later I announced my call into full time ministry to my players.  It was a bad match.  My kid got ripped off and I showed my tail like I should have never shown.  And here I am saying I’m a Christian.  Well what did that communicate?  I’m guilty.  The world was watching.  The world is always watching.

I went and had lunch with a guy one time.  This is an amazing story.  We were sitting there eating lunch.  He had called me.  We had known each other, but we weren’t real close.  He was a member of the church and he just needed to ask some questions.  Talk through some things.  The waitress comes over and dumps both drinks in my lap.  All of them.  Big water and tea, right in my lap now.  I was not happy but, in that moment,, I could just feel the Holy Spirit working saying do not react the way you want to react.  I did the opposite.  I was very nice.  She was apologetic.  It was an accident.  I tipped her really well.  A month later, I baptize that guy.  Now I don’t know if I had anything to do with that moment, ’cause there were a lot of conversations, but if I would have behaved differently would the outcome have been different?

The world is watching.  The world is watching this church in Philippi and Paul explains it in verse 15 “so that you are blameless and pure children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars.”  If the world sees us behaving like them, are we shining like stars?  The answer to that is no.  Paul describes his world that he’s living in as crooked an perverted.  Now I’m going to tell you what those two words mean and see if it sounds familiar.

Crooked is where we get our word scoliosis from.  It literally means just crooked.  It is a crooked, twisted, morally bent generation, spiritually deformed.  Sound familiar?  The word perverted or perverse means to twist and a turn, and we live in a time in a culture that is twisting and turning morality into immorality.  We live in a world today that says that what we know is morally wrong is morally OK. It’s being twisted. Same things happening in Paul’s day. I mean, it’s just amazing how the world has always been running as fast as it can away from God because they are crooked and their perverted.  We see it.  We’re more aware of it today.  But the problem has always existed.

Now we have two options when we realize this as Christians.  The first option is we wall ourselves off from the darkness.  We just say the darkness is over here and we’re going to be over there and we’re going to take our little flashlight of Jesus and we’re just going to stand on the outside and just shine it in.  Maybe somebody will follow us.  Or we can be like stars that penetrate the darkness.  Use our flashlight, put it on the ground, walk into the darkness.  And lead people out of it.  We walk in and we say, hey, you see this.  This is the light of Jesus.  Follow Him out of this place.

Church we have to be willing to go into the darkness to shine the light to those people.  We don’t wall ourselves off or hide from it.  The darker it gets, the brighter we should shine.  The darker the world gets, the brighter you and I should shine for Jesus.  Even like Paul, if it cost us something.  The darker the world gets, the brighter we should shine.  We shine by being blameless by being pure, flawless and faultless is what he says.  Comparing it to from the differences between crooked and perverted, we are to be blameless, pure, flawless and thoughtless, which happens with what we talked about last week.  It’s the process of allowing God to work in us so He can work through us.  That is how we are to shine like stars.  So that other people can be led to Jesus.  So that God can use us to advance the Gospel together.

And so we might be asking what are the things we can do to shine like stars.  Paul gives us four ways in this verse.  There’s many more throughout the Bible, but he gives us four.  The first one, do everything without grumbling.  Let that sink in.  Do everything without grumbling.  Now that word everything, guess what it means.  I did a word study on it.  I opened up my Greek New Testament.  I looked at it.  I looked at all the ways it’s used in the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.  You know what it means?  Everything.  I mean, there’s no secret to it.  Church, here, we do everything without grumbling.  Home we do everything without grumbling.  Husbands, that honey do list that gets longer, longer you do it, but you don’t grumble.  OK, you do it.  Wives, when we mess up you don’t grumble.  Everything you do at work and your whole life at school teacher gives you more homework than you think that don’t grumble.  That’s how you shine like stars.  What that word means grumble is don’t murmur.

It’s this I love this ’cause I did it last night.  We ordered something.  Well, we wanted to order something, but we didn’t get to go to the restaurant we wanted to eat at, so we got something else which was really good.  It was good food but my mother who placed the order forgot to ask say no onions on my salad.  That’s OK ’cause usually restaurants put like the ring onions, it’s easy to pick off.  This was chopped onions throughout the whole salad.  Again, So what did I do?  I’m an ungrateful son that she ordered this for me.  I started complaining, murmuring under my breath, ’cause I didn’t want her to hear me, about all this stuff done in here.  That’s grumbling, it’s murmuring.  It’s expressing displeasure.

‘It could be secretive talk.  Whispering about someone.  Teenagers in school, have you ever been whispered about?  Here’s another one.  Teenagers have you done the whispering?  How is that shining a star?  How is that being stars to a dark world if you are doing the whispering?

I told you a few weeks ago, Andy Griffith has a sermon illustration for everything.  I have recently started watching the episodes that are in color.  Most people don’t know they’re in color ’cause nobody watches those episodes, but I’ve started watching them.  There’s an episode where Aunt Bee buys a blonde wig.  And it’s awful.  I mean, in color it looks bad.  It would look bad in black and white.  Now Floyd and some of these other ladies in the show are like “Oh Bee, it looks so good.”  Then they go over to the corner, “can you believe she did that?  I can’t believe it looks terrible.”  The murmuring that’s what this is.  We as Christians don’t partake in this behavior.  We don’t murmur, we don’t grumble, we don’t complain.

But we also number two, we do everything without argue.  Now, this is exactly what you think it is.  This is argumentative behavior.  The Apostle Paul has told us in this letter he wants unity.  He has told us in this letter there is disunity.  You can read about it in Chapter 4 in this church.  He wants them to be like minded.  But what he doesn’t want is conformity or uniformity, and so for me, I look at this, do everything without arguing, what does that look like?  Because we’re going to have healthy debate?  We’re going to have differences of opinion.  We’re going to have healthy discussions, and when I thought about what’s the difference between healthy discussions and arguing, I just boiled it down for me as attitude.  When we have an attitude of anger and hostility, then we’re arguing.  When we have an attitude of my way is the only way and we plant our feet in the ground and nobody else is right that’s arguing.

We can have healthy discussions and healthy debates, and we may not always get what we want.  In fact, when we put the interest of others before our own, we’re not going to get what we want.  So, it’s OK to have healthy discussions, but we don’t partake in hostile argumentation.  Because we’re to shine like stars we’re to be different from the world.  What’s the world doing?  They’re arguing every single day nonstop.  We need to show the world that we can get along with each other because Christ is working in us.  We need to show the world that it’s OK to have differences of opinion.  We can still get along and love each other without argumentation, without arguing.  I was reading this and I think he really is pointing back to the Old Testament when he says this. The Israelites set free from Egypt.  Crossed the Red Sea on dry land.  Wandering in the wilderness with all the provisions that they absolutely need from God.  He gives them manna, which you know I wasn’t there.  Manna is probably not the best thing to eat, but it’s food.  And what do they do?  They grumble, and they complain, and they argue.  It’s like, well, we’re getting manna, but we want steak.

Just look what God’s doing for you. Look what God’s done in your life and in our life. There’s no reason for us to argue or grumble about any of it, because God is still working. And when we do these things with no arguing and no grumbling, a church is a community of diverse people.  And when we show the world that we can come together, unified, man lives will be changed ’cause we’re representing something greater than the world.  So we don’t complain.

We don’t argue, but then he says hold firm to the Word of life.  This is essential to shining like stars.  Hold firm to the Word of life.  This isn’t talking about the Bible.  We stand firm on the Bible, but this is talking about the Gospel.  The Word of life is the Gospel message which we received from Christ, and we responded to.  This church, Paul planted the church.  He walked in there, he preached the Gospel.  They heard it.  They received it and responded to it and it changed their lives forever.

If you’ve responded to the Gospel, the news that you are a sinner destined for hell, that Christ saved you from your sins, He saved you from that eternal penalty, and He has restored you to what He is created you to be, then you need to hold fast.  Don’t ever forget what Christ has done for you.  We’re getting close to Easter.  Don’t ever forget that He hung on the cross and said “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.”  Your sins put Him on that cross, just like everybody else’s.  So when He says “Father forgive them,” He’s talking to you too.

Hold fast to that truth, but this word hold fast also means hold forth.  As you’re remembering it, you hold it forth for all the world to see.  Take the flashlight, take the light of Jesus.  Show the world.  Tell your story.  Tell people what Christ has done for you.  Yours may be this.  I was eight years old.  I responded at Vacation Bible School and I gave my life to the Lord and I’ve been following Him ever since.  That’s a powerful testimony.  It’s powerful because Christ changed you.  Yours might be I was a drug addict, an alcoholic and then I came to Christ and He changed me.  That’s powerful.  The stories are just as powerful.  Your story of how you got there is powerful.  Whether it’s eight years old at Bible School or coming out of the world of drugs and alcohol.  Because Christ died for you and changed your life.  Tell people about it.  Hold fast to it and hold it forth for the world to see.

And the fourth thing we see is that we’re to rejoice in all of our circumstances.  The Apostle Paul has used this word rejoice throughout his letter.  He’s in prison, chained to a Roman guard.  I’m rejoicing.  I’m spreading the Gospel to these soldiers.  He invited them to rejoice in all his circumstances, he is rejoicing now.  He talks about being poured out as a sacrificial, drink offering.  Here’s what that means.  It is an Old Testament reference where you would take a jar of wine, pour it out onto the sacrifice and you would pour every last drop of it onto the altar.  You wouldn’t hold anything back.  Every drop of wine or water or whatever was in the jar would be offered on that altar.

What Paul is saying is I’m going to leave it at all out on the field.  I’m going to live my life completely and solely for Christ, and if I have to give it everything, including death, that’s OK.  I’m going to pour myself out.  I’m going to give it all to God.  Are you living your life like that?  Could you honestly say today that I’m pouring every ounce, every drop of me into following Jesus?  And he says, because even if I have to die, it’s worth it.  Why?  Watch this?  This is 1 big section in Philippians.  Even if I have to be poured out like a drink offering, I will rejoice because to live as Christ and to die is gain.

That’s where it started with what he’s writing.  To live is Christ, to die is gain ’cause I get to go be with Christ.  And so he says I will rejoice.  And then he invites the church, who is experiencing persecution, who is experiencing internal hostility with the two ladies who are fighting each other.  And he says you need to rejoice also.  I love that.  No matter what we go through in life.  Listen, COVID has been tough on everybody.  We can find ways to rejoice.  I mean, I rejoice every day that our church still has its doors open ’cause there’s a lot that don’t, and that’s good decision for them.  But God is working and blessing.  And man, I rejoice that that we have churches who would never have done online services are now doing them.  Churches who were against Facebook Live or against online messages are now doing them.  We can rejoice because the Gospel is being heard by more people than ever before around the world.  Last Easter, for those who were using Facebook Live, Facebook broke.  They could not keep up with the amount of churches who are live streaming their services.

And we can rejoice.  I can rejoice when we lose loved ones who are going to heaven.  Yeah, I mean, it brings us grief, but we can find ways to rejoice.  In all we do in our circumstances, let us be people who rejoice.  And let us pour our life out for the cause.  I don’t want to stand in front of Jesus, and it’s a process, you remember back to last week sermon, you can watch it if you missed it.   It’s a process, but I don’t want to stand before Jesus and regret not having done something more.  I want to do it all.  I want to pour my whole life out for Him.  Do you?

You know, a few years ago we had a solar eclipse. I don’t know if any of you watched it. It was really interesting to watch. The moon came between the sun and the Earth, and you couldn’t see the sun’s rays for a short amount of time.  And I remember I was watching it the way I had figured out how to watch it, and I remember just sitting and reflecting, the moon is blocking the rays of the sun from the earth.  And I remember reading some of this verse that day and thinking made my life never stand between God’s Son and the world.  May my life never stand between God’s Son and the world.  Instead, may God’s Son, Jesus Christ, shine through me so the world can see it.  That’s a question we all have to ask.  Is something we all have to commit to.  That our lives would not stand between Jesus in the world, but it would reflect Jesus and shine Jesus to the world.

As citizens of heaven, as citizens of heaven, those called to follow Jesus, are you living a life worthy of the Gospel in this way?  If not, then just go to the Lord for a time of prayer, respond, ask Him to help you.  Ask Him to work in you, so He can work through you like we learned last week.  Maybe you’ve never decided to follow Him at all and you’re still in the darkness.  You’ve never given your life to Christ. You’re still searching for some way to live up to God’s standards. You have a God sized hole in your heart and you try to fill it with drugs. You try to fill it with alcohol. You try to fill it with sex or pornography or whatever you’re trying to fill it with. Listen, those things aren’t going to last.  Maybe it’s money.  If I just have more money, I’ll make it.  All you need is Jesus.  All you need to do today, if you’ve never made that decision, is to say I believe.  I believe He is who He says He is.  I believe He’s the Savior of the world.  I believe He died and rose again for me.  And then you repent, you turn away from the darkness, and you follow the Light.  And in that instant, in that moment, you’re guaranteed a spot in heaven.  And you’re guaranteed a lifelong process of growing to be more and more like Jesus.

Do you need to make that decision today?  Maybe you’ve been here, you’ve been listening to these sermons and you’ve been called to join this church and work with us and through us as we together advanced the Gospel.  I’d invite you to come today and join.  If God’s calling you come be a part of this community of followers, as we shine the light into our community around us.  Whatever decision God is calling you to today, would you respond.

Let’s pray.

Father, we thank you so much for Your Son, Jesus Christ.  We are so grateful for His sacrifice on that cross.  A sacrifice that made it possible for us to have a relationship with You.  A sacrifice that made it possible for us to be forgiven of our sins.  And Father, we know that we’re still going to mess up.  We know that we’re still going to make mistakes, but would You just help us and work in us?  Father help us to wake up every day, surrendering our life to You.  Taking up our cross and following each and every day.  Help us to pour it all out.  Father help us not to grumble.  Help us not to argue.  Help us to remember the Gospel and then show it to the world.  And help us to rejoice in all of our circumstances so that we can shine like the stars You have created us to be.  We ask all this in Jesus’ Name Amen and Amen.