Shining Like the Son
Text: Philippians 2:12-18
Proposition: To work out your salvation is to prove or confirm what God’s will for Him saving you is and ultimately that it will enable you to shine like Christ.
Introduction: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.”, Genesis 1:1-3. The first element in creation, even before the sun or moon were created, is light. It is something that we rarely think of, yet it is now known that light has at least 12 essential functions. It is the essence for photosynthesis which becomes the staff of food for all things. It is what is essential for strength in our bones and teeth through Vitamin D synthesis. It is essential for vision, to detect color, for maintaining the temperature around us, for setting the rhythms of sleep and being awake. It is light that creates heat and weather. We measure with light, we heal with light, we signal with it, we sterilize with it and we comprehend beauty with it. The absence of light marks the loss of all these things. Listen to what happened in Luke 23:44, 45, “By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle.” The sin of mankind had been put upon Christ as He hung on the cross. 2 Corinthians 5 goes so far as to say, “He made Him sin who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” When that happened on the cross the significance of that moment was marked by darkness over the earth for three hours. We cannot account for that, no eclipse, no gathering of clouds can produce three hours of darkness.
All that light does is personified in Christ. He is called the light of the world for good reason. John 1:4, “In Him was life and the life was the light of men.” I tell you all these things because in Christ you are now called light bearers, in Him you are now called the light of the world. That is, it is Him in you that brings light to the lives around you, that brings light to your own concerns and fears and is the source of your joy in Christ. Have a look at Philippians 2:12 -18 with me.
Paul makes an incredible statement in verse 12, “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;”. What catches our attention is the last part, the ‘work out your salvation…’ part. It slams into our understanding of the gospel that declares we are saved by grace through faith. It is Paul’s way of saying that salvation was always meant to be something that was functional in its design. We are saved by the blood of Christ on the cross, our sin is paid for or atoned by His life for ours, that’s the incredible design of God in Christ. He transforms sinful humanity into a redeemed humanity by grace through faith in Christ. That has both a long tomorrow view and a present tense view. The long tomorrow view is that we have an eternal life in us that is designed for being in the presence of Christ long after this life has left, ceased to be in our bodies. The long tomorrow view is what we call heaven. The present tense view of the design of salvation is that it be employed here and now, put to use to do what it was designed to do, to glorify God by showing the world Who He is and what He intends to do. When Paul says, work out your salvation with fear and trembling, he is referring to the way we are meant to function in this new state of being made alive eternally in Christ. It would be like taking a course in computer design, finding the parts necessary to make one, spending hours putting it together and setting it on your desk but never plugging it in. It’s design is in place but what’s lacking is function. So let’s ask the obvious question, what does plugging in look like?
1. Be obedient to God’s directing will. The obedience Paul points to was referenced earlier in in this passage when he talked about the obedience of Christ to the Father in being wiling to offer Himself on the cross for our sins in verses 8 to11. That obedience required a humility to not only surrender His will but also to trust in the Fathers’ absolute sufficiency to carry this to completion and yet still to preserve the unity of Jesus with the Father. Obedience is you taking a step forwards when there is risk confronting the direction God is pointing you in. That obedience was rewarded in Christ’s case, every knee would bow, every tongue would confess, God would be seen and His purposes known by what Jesus did. The inference is that as Christ has done we are to follow in, as Christ was recognized and rewarded so too there will be reward as we obey.
2. You can’t know the sufficiency of God until you are involved. Look at how Paul puts this in verse 13, “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” The very action of your will is something God influences, He makes you aware of a situation or need and He prompts you to see yourself as a means of responding to it. Your obedience is you agreeing with His will to be used of Him for His glory. As you obey, the fears that you had of ability, supply, effectiveness and outcome are His to not only overcome but also to bring life to. It’s knowing and then believing that it is God who works in you both to will and do that invites your faith and obedience.
3. It takes the body of Christ to be the body of Christ. Look at verse 14,15, “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,”. There is a plurality implied here, the complaining and disputing require others. The being blameless and harmless requires others. These are directives that relate to the body of Christ, how we interact, how we consider or think of each other in a church community. It refers to lights, not just a single light, to being children of God and not only a child of God. Consider Ephesians 4:16, “from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” It takes the whole body of Christ to be the body of Christ.
4. Hold fast the word of life. Hang on tight, get a good grip on it, put your full weight on it and trust it. Feel it’s strength by testing it, test it by using it, use it by proclaiming it. Be familiar with the Word, know where it says what it says and why it says it. Hold fast the word by not holding fast other things, choose what and Whom you will love. Then be like a drink offering poured out on a sacrifice, a symbol of joy in sacrifice. Paul calls the church to let joy be present in all they do.
Jesus once said, “…“I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” John 8:12
But then Jesus also said, “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
It's as you choose obedience to God’s revealed will, it’s as you know the sufficiency of God because you agreed with His will and presented yourself to be His vessel of use, it’s as you do this in the community of the body of Christ, it’s as you hold fast the Word in and through all of this that you will shine as lights in the world. In essence you will Shine like the Son.