A life of integrity and witness (Philippians 2:15)
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A Life of Integrity and Witness
How a holy life impacts your witness for Christ
A worthy walk, part 4–Philippians 2:15
What kind of evangelist are you? Are you the in-your-face confronter? Like Peter in Acts 2, you knock people over the head with a two-by-four of truth and tell them to repent—“Face the music, friends. You are on the road to Hell unless you turn to Christ.”
Or are you the intellectual apologist? Like the Apostle Paul, you use the Old Testament Scripture, evidence, philosophy, logic, reasonableness affirmed by God’s Word to show the simple truth of salvation provided by God through His Son, Jesus Christ.
Or are you the testimony sharer? Like the blind beggar of John 9, you simply tell the miraculous story of how Christ dramatically changed your life–your testimony. Or are you the relational friend-builder? Like Mark 5, the man tormented by unclean spirits was told by Jesus to go home, tell your family face-to-face what the Lord has done for you and how he had mercy on you. This one talks to friends.
Or are you the “Come and hear”, invitational type? Like the Samaritan woman at the well, after a lengthy conversation with Jesus, she invited everyone in town to come with her to hear Jesus. Or are you the lovingly-serve-others type? This is like Dorcas in Acts 9, who continued to serve the needs of people around her and those acts pointed to her transformation by Christ, pointing to Him alone as Savior.
No matter what your style, you are called to be salt and light–to season your speech with salt so it tastes good in order to respond to each person, to go and make disciples, become a fisher of men and be Christ’s witnesses. In order to walk worthy, you are to be about the process of sharing the Gospel, to shine light in a dark world.
Today’s sermon could be called, “The secret power of hidden holiness” or, “What you don’t see makes a huge difference in your influence for Christ” or, “Impacting the lost for Christ by living holy in secret” or, “What you do in secret impacts lives for Christ”–as that is what Paul teaches us in Philippians 2:15. Open your Bibles and follow in your outline as we continue verse-by-verse through this incredible book.
Paul is under house arrest in Rome, awaiting either freedom or death, but has told us in chapter 1, no matter what, “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” He reminded the Philippians to walk worthy of the Gospel, then began to address their struggle with disunity. Paul commands them to think about others first, then uses the example of Christ who died for others as an illustration.
He returns to the theme of walking worthy in verse 12, reminding them to walk obediently, and verse 13 walk dependently, and to speak guardedly in verse 14. Paul now continues a description of a worthy walk by calling them to live privately holy and aggressively evangelistic. A worthy walk involves how they live when no one is watching and how they share the Gospel with the lost.
Look at the verses in your outline and let’s read from verses 12 to 16, “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15 so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.”
Keeping things fresh this morning, I have a different kind of outline for you this morning. The text is on the left, a reminder of meaning is on the right and passages are on the back. Verses 12 to 14, why should we work hard to obey and not whine about our circumstances or talk about others? Why? Verse 15, “So that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.” The Bible is clear–how you live in private and how we live as a community of Christians will dramatically affect our witness for Christ. You should walk worthy because it will impact you and it will impact others.
1. IMPACTING YOU
Paul wants the disunity to stop. He tells them they will have to work it out in dependent faith and obey God’s Word. They will have to make dependent decisions to do what is right, verses 12 to 13. The first big choice, verse 14, is to stop grumbling and disputing, stop complaining and arguing. But these Holy Spirit-empowered and Word-driven decisions are more than just doing what is right and glorifying God. There is a great purpose here–what is it?
The first two words of verse 15, “So that,” tell us there is a PURPOSE. Working out your salvation and guarding your mouth have two great reasons. The first is the impact on your own walk with God. Exercising your will and stopping improper talk will hopefully cultivate PROBABLE GROWTH. Paul says, “you will prove yourselves.”
That’s an interesting phrase–it literally means you might become. Paul is pointing to an expectation of growth. I like to call it the hope of growth. In this verse there’s an expectation of holiness and a desire for a greater witness for Christ.
By using this phrase, you might become, translated “you will prove yourselves,” Paul is throwing the responsibility for change on the Philippians. Paul is laying on the shoulders of Christians and churches here the expectation to obey God’s Word and give evidence they are genuinely saved. This is a powerful way to motivate others.
The verb is plural, so Paul is talking to the entire church. It is in the middle voice, putting the responsibility on these Christians to act upon themselves. And the mood is one of probability not certainty. Work out your salvation, verse 12, trust in a sovereign God, verse 13, guard your mouth from complaining against others and arguing with others, verse 14, for the purpose of personal growth, which I hope will occur.
The saints from Philippi were disagreeing–they were disunified, they were harming their testimony as a church in the community and hurting each other personally. So Paul expresses a hope of change. As he does, Paul places the responsibility for spiritual growth directly on their shoulders. This is exactly what you’re supposed to do with your children and students. When they come to you and say, “I gave my life to Christ”–how should you respond?
You should rejoice, but you should also lay the expectation of manifesting Christ in and through their lives in time. You don’t say, “Praise God, let’s mark this date on the calendar and whenever you doubt, we will remind of you of this date.” That’s bad theology and terrible motivation. No, you say, “Praise God, it is going to be so exciting to see how the Lord will manifest Himself in your life and use you in great ways as the truth of your salvation works out through your life.” You are placing on the shoulders of your children the biblical expectation that genuine salvation will be manifested by fruit over time.
This is what wives who submit to their husbands accomplish. They place on the shoulders of their husband the expectation to lead the family according to the Word of God. “Honey, whatever you decide is good with me. I know you want to honor Christ and obey His Word and because you do, it makes it easier for me to follow your lead.” Badda bing! Now the entire servant leadership burden has rightly fallen on her husband.
Paul tells the Philippians of hopeful, probable growth. So how does he want them to grow? “To be blameless and innocent”–PRIVATE HOLINESS. Why do I say private holiness? I’m so glad you asked. Because of the meaning of these two words. Blameless means free of guilt, without defect or blemish. The same word blameless is used by Paul to describe a blameless heart in 1 Thessalonians 3:13, “So that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.” This is holiness of the heart. The idea is to be free of guilt in heart, free of guilt by walking uniquely holy.
Innocent means pure—integrity. The word is used in metallurgy to describe metals which are not mixed. You wouldn’t say it looks like gold, or it has some gold, or it’s gold with impurities, or it’s a gold alloy. But you would say innocent is pure gold without mixture. The word is also used to describe wine that has no water mixed in.
The New Testament only uses this word innocent three times–here and in Romans 16:19, “I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil.” And Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” Paul is hoping the Philippians are going to grow in personal integrity and private purity.
Do you pursue private holiness? Like David, can you say Psalm 101:2, “I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart.” When no one is around, do you pick up trash that wasn’t yours, return the item you accidentally took, or help someone in need when appropriate? Are you above board in business deals, not saying one thing then doing another, or holding back part of the truth or misrepresenting the truth?
In light of verse 14, are you regularly confessing the sins of speech when you complain, grumble, argue, or when you say an inappropriate word? And most importantly, the ultimate actions of private holiness–do you regularly confess the sins no one sees–confessing sins of thought and desire? Do you want to know how genuine Christians grow hard of heart? When they fail to confess the sins of thought and desire. It’s crucial to remember that. Paul is expecting the Philippians to be innocent of what is evil–as innocent as doves in order to establish your hearts without blame in holiness.
Why would you want to pursue this? Because you are “children of God”—“so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God.” You have a PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP with your Heavenly Father–you are family. All genuine Christians are God’s children. God made you His children at great cost. You are children of God by faith, by adoption and by spiritual birth.
John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” Now God is our Father–so close in our hearts He is Abba, Daddy. And our daddy loves us. First John 3:1, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God.” Every non-Christian is God’s enemy. But once you’re saved you are no longer God’s enemy–as a Christian you are God’s child, family.
Not only should you be loyal to your Father, but you should be loyal to His family. Instead of tearing each other apart like the Philippians, you should be defending and supporting your family. In fact, if you are a child of God, you will love your brothers and sisters. First John 3:10, “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.”
I used to be able to handle of a lot of criticism. I have dealt with slander, been lied about, and have had some Alexander the coppersmith-types who’ve done damage. But for the most part, those same people have not attacked my wife nor my children. And the major reason is this–I rarely fight back when it’s me, but I push back hard when it’s my family.
That goes for my fellow pastors, elders and leaders of our church. I may listen as a coach to the weaknesses of others in order to help and strengthen them, but I will not allow anyone to attack them. They are family. They are friends. Paul reminds the Philippians, they are all children of God. If you ever hope to please your heavenly Father, then you must be loyal to others–you must get along.
Parents, you know how hard it is when your kids don’t get along. Do not give that same grief to your heavenly Father. Work out your salvation, be dependently obedient, guard your mouth, so God can impact your life to grow you in personal holiness as a child of God.
But the Philippians have forgotten, and possibly you too. Your private life affects your public witness–personally and corporately. So in the middle of verse 15, Paul turns the focus to . . .
2. IMPACTING YOUR WITNESS
Verse 15 says, “so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God.” What will happen? You’ll become “above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.” Above reproach is a very important word to me, to every elder and every pastor. In the qualifications for elder in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, the first qualification and the overall summary qualification is above reproach.
It means to be an example of holiness. It means you live holy. It means you have a holiness which is generally seen. I call it SHOWN HOLINESS. Thankfully this is not perfect holiness or perfection in any way. Just like an animal sacrifice was never perfect, but a representation of your best–being above reproach is supposed to be our best spiritual fathers, unique men of God, but never perfect men.
What blows me away is God is calling you to also be above reproach. It is a quality not merely for elders, but for everyone–for pastor and parishioner. It means without blemish, without a handle of blame. The above reproach believer sins, but they don’t have overt sins you can grab on to like a handle to blame. They have bents and weaknesses, but they seek to temper them. They are blameless.
This is the believer who desires to be a Daniel. Daniel lived in the midst of ungodly Babylon. He didn’t live off in Idaho or a commune somewhere. He lived in the king’s palace, and he worked for the king. When his enemies tried to do away with him, the only thing they could find fault with was his worship of Jehovah. They finally tried to have him executed through a law that stipulated for a certain period no one could ask a favor of any god or man except King Darius.
When Daniel continued to pray to God, he violated the law and was thrown to the lions. God delivered Daniel, but not before he had received this testimony. His enemies said in Daniel 6:5, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.” Daniel lived above reproach before others.
As a Christian and as a church, we are to be the people who take the “Yeah, but” out of our excuses to sin. We are not to beat ourselves up, but we are to pursue living above reproach. The reason is we live on a fallen planet filled with sinfully sick people to point them to Christ. The only way we can point to our holy God is to live holy–but it will not be easy.
Paul says we are SURROUNDED. We are to live “above reproach in the midst of.” In the midst of a fallen world–the phrase “in the midst of” actually means surrounded by, describing a place we must travel through. We are in the world but not of the world. Like in a boat, we are floating on the corrupt water of earth–but as we do, we are to keep the water out of our boat. We are in the midst of a sin-saturated planet.
How bad is it? “Above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.” We are surrounded by some desperately messed up and needy people. They are spiritually sick people. Paul uses two terms which inform us of their illness. Crooked is the Greek word skolios, where we get the English medical term scoliosis, the abnormal curvature and misalignment of the spine.
The Philippians had a river/stream running through their region which wound back and forth in a twisted fashion and not straight, like most rivers. This word crooked is used to describe something
I’m familiar with—messed up hair. Some of you go to bed and wake up with your hair looking exactly the same. I go to bed and wake up to discover something new and frightening every morning. I have sincerely yelled in fright at the mirror over my hair.
Crooked is the warped, bent, curved, messed up, wicked unsaved people the Philippians live with in Philippi and the same people you live with at school, work and around home. Some are nice, but they’re still crooked in heart. Truth is straight, but these folks are crooked–they have bent the truth, turned away from truth. And each of them, even Grandma Nice is suppressing the truth. They are crooked.
Plus they are also perverse. Perverse is actually a participle, meaning they are perversing–continuing in ongoing perversion. Perverse is in a tense telling us they were perverted in the past and they continue to abide in perversion. Perverse means to deviate from what is right and good–it is to deviate from biblical truth. They call the truth a lie and they call lies the truth. They call purity dirty and they call filth purity. They call good bad and they call bad good.
This is exactly what Isaiah warned us about in Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” They are a crooked and perverse generation. The Philippians and we are facing an entire generation of crooked and perversely spiritual sick people.
Jesus called them in Matthew 12:23 “an evil and adulterous generation” and in Matthew 17:17 “an unbelieving and perverted generation.” So the answer is to run away to Texas or Idaho. For the really fearful, there is Canada and Alaska. No, Jesus’ plan for us is John 17:15, “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.”
Is that all? No. Matthew 28:19 and 20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” We are here on a mission. What is it?
Look at the end of verse 15, “among whom you appear as lights in the world.” You are I are to SHINE. “Appear” means to shine. The actual Greek verb appear is calling the Philippi church to act upon themselves in order to shine. Jesus said it in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
In contrast to the darkness of this world and the sickness of sin corrupting the planet, shine the light of the Gospel. The darker our world becomes, the brighter the Gospel shines. As you seek to live a holy life in private, then develop a heart for people–like Christ who saw His people like sheep without a shepherd. And finally, work at communicating an honest and clear Gospel message–your witness will intensify.
The Greek verb appear actually informs the Philippian church (and FBC) they already do shine. It’s a fact—truth-centered churches shine in contrast to this dark world. But Paul now calls them and us to shine brighter. God is calling churches here to shine brighter than the SPLENDOR of the stars in the night sky. Really? Yes.
Paul spells this desire out in the last six words of verse 15—“appear as lights in the world.” Lights means splendor. Lights means to make known, to make clear and to show off. We are to show off an awesome Christ, proclaimed in a Gospel of awesome clarity. Don’t be discouraged, even imperfect Christians will shine as lights in the world.
Jesus said to His imperfect disciples, they’d be the light of the world–and you are no different than they. God uses grossly imperfect people to show off His splendor. You are here in order to show off Christ in private and public, in deed and speech, to tell the message which will rescue the spiritually sick from eternal Hell.
Our behavior in secret in our own hearts and in our Christian church community will affect our ability to shine in this world. One pastor said, the way believers live as children of God will make a dramatic impact on how they influence the godless world around them. Just as right doctrine without right living is hypocritical, so right living is ineffective without proclaiming Gospel truth.
We live privately unique, corporately unique and do so in the midst of a fallen world system. We are to appear as lights in the world. The world is the fallen SYSTEM which leaves God out. It’s a planet set up to allow non-Christians to live without submitting to Christ. It is a world where everything is worshipped except the one true God. It is Earth where they honor everyone and everything except their Creator and Redeemer.
You and I will better glorify God in Heaven than we can on Earth. So the Lord leaves us here to glorify Him in ways we can’t in Heaven. And that is to proclaim the Gospel, through a holy life and a clear message. Take home this morning . . .
A. Do you seek to live privately HOLY?
Paul is speaking to a church in verse 15, but he is also addressing the individual believer to deal with little things. True holiness involves confessing sins no one sees–those actions done in privacy which do not please Christ or run contrary to His Word. And even deeper, to continue to confess your sins of mind and heart. Confess means to say the same thing about sin which God does.
Practice 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Tell the Lord about your wrong thinking, your heart of greed, your dissatisfactions in life, your secret fears and desires of lust. Live privately holy so that you never allow your heart to grow hard.
B. Are you actually pursuing CHANGE?
Two questions for men–tune out ladies.
First Are you leading your wife and children spiritually?
Have you rejected the sin of passivity? This is the biggest issue with men and the reason so many Christian wives are frustrated. Men will not repent of passivity. Have you accepted the spiritual responsibility of leadership? To be a spiritual leader means, if there is a weakness or problem, you embrace it as if it is your fault–most of the time it is and nothing will change until you take action.
Are you initiating dependence on Christ and reliance upon the Scriptures at home? This is how you lead. You show off Christ’s character by the power of the Spirit and you follow the Scripture. Men, are you leading your wife and children spiritually?
Second Are you leading your family to be a witness in the world?
Are you praying for the people in the greatest need? Do you complain about them or pray for them? Are you burdened for the lost like Christ was, as He looked at the crowds like lost sheep? Do you plan, or buy up opportunities to share the Gospel? Like inviting neighbors to a Sunday morning worship? Like the Walk Worthy series–did you make any effort at all to use the card to invite a friend or neighbor or relative who needs Christ?
Like inviting workmates to church events like TableTalk, or Fall Festival, or Mom’s by Grace, or clothing exchange? Like inviting kids to come to camp with our students. We’re doing all we can to assist you, but I have to ask–are you making any effort? Do your children ever think, “I need to be a witness,” because they see how important being a witness is to you as their dad? If not, something is wrong. Are you pursuing change, growth, being a doer?
C. Have you seen the DOCTOR?
There is only one fix for being crooked and perverse. There is only one doctor who has the cure to spiritual separation. It’s not a religion, a place or a pledge. It is a person, the only one who can help. The only one with the right medicine. The only doctor who can actually cure you. Mark 2:17, “Jesus said to them, ‘It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’”
If you’re spiritually sick, you need to turn to Christ. God became a man and lived 33 years on Earth–then out of a heart of incredible love, took our place and bore our punishment for sin. When we turn to Him, He will take our sin and we will receive His righteousness. When we turn to Him, He washes our heart and gives us a new heart which now functions properly. Have you seen the doctor?
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