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Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1272

September 18, 2016 Matthew 5:13-16

Dr. Ed Pettus Philippians 2:1-18

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)


“Shining Lights”


  • Shine as lights in the world


Phil. 2:15 the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.


We probably all know someone or about someone who lights up a room when they enter. We know that we mean he or she has a big smile or brings something with their presence that causes joy or a feeling of gladness. The apostle Paul sees the church as the body that lights up the world. We are the lights of the world! Sounds like a big responsibility. But look at the context of his statement in Philippians 2:15, “in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” When we reflect on the crooked and twisted world in which we live, shining like a light does not appear to be as difficult as we might imagine. The darker the world gets, the brighter our lights will shine. We don’t have to be a flood light, in fact, all it takes is a small candle to illuminate the darkness just enough. All it takes is enough light to help one person see. One person. Sometimes that one person might be a believer who is blind to something in their life. Other times it might be a non-believer who moves one step closer to believing in Christ. We are not called to save the whole world. I know it seems like that sometimes when preachers keep pressing evangelism upon us, I feel that pressure too from time to time. But I don’t think Jesus ever puts “pressure” on us. He says to take his yoke, it’s easy and light! We share in the opportunity to shine as lights in the midst of a crooked world, because we share that burden with Jesus Christ who is THE light. We are called to shine in the world, in our part of the world, in our home, work, school, store, car, street, wherever we might be at the moment when God sets before us the opportunity to be used.

One of my favorite quotes from Oswald Chambers is this: “Keep your relationship right with [God], then whatever circumstances you are in, and whoever you meet day by day, He is pouring rivers of living water through you, and it is of His mercy that He does not let you know it” (My Utmost for His Highest, August 30). In the context of our passage for today we might say that God is pouring light through us and we don’t even realize it. Thank God that he does not let us know because we are so prone to arrogance that we might begin to think more of ourselves than we should. Paul helps us tremendously in Philippians 2 to avoid the conceit of serving God. How can we be a light in the world and keep ourselves from sin. It begins in Philippians 2:5.



  • Have this mind


Phil. 2:5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.


What does it take to be a shining light? Philippians 2:5 says, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” He goes on to describe he mind of Christ, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (6-8). The characteristics that will let our light shine are the same that Christ embodied...He emptied himself, served, humbled Himself, and was obedient all the way to His death. These are the characteristics we seldom see in the world. Could we ever imagine a political leader who emptied himself and served the public in humble obedience? There is probably not a political advisor on the planet who would suggest that kind of strategy. This is one reason why Christianity is growing more unpopular among general population because our understanding of leadership and life is so different from what he world projects.

Take for instance a recent speech by a presidential candidate who called all people who are against marriage equality “a basket of deplorables”. In essence this places the Bible in that same basket and Jesus in that same basket and it is not the way an emptied, humble, obedient servant would treat followers of God. I suspect that if Jesus Himself was running for President He would be called a racist homophobic deplorable candidate.

We are called to have the same mind of Christ, the same attitude, the same disposition as Jesus. We too are to think about life and faith in a particular way. It is a way that will rub and is rubbing the world the wrong way. It is a way of life that is humble in its ways and obedient to God alone. Paul says that this way of life is only possible by the power of the Holy Spirit. Look with me at 1 Corinthians 2:12-16,

12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

This is to teach us that the things of God, things like service, humility, and obedience are understood only by those who have the Holy Spirit for they are spiritually discerned. We so often wonder why people cannot see or understand the valuable things of God, and it is precisely because they cannot understand or accept them outside the Spirit of God. What a gift we have been given to have the Holy Spirit, the mind of Christ in our lives.



  • Work out your own salvation


Phil. 2:12 out your own salvation with fear and trembling...


A second way we become lights is to become more intentional about our walk with Christ: praying, studying, fellowship, participation, looking for opportunity to share our faith, and discerning God's way. Things like this are the ways we “work out” our salvation. It is exercising the faith we have been given. This is not saying that we become saved by works, but that we work our lives out of the gracious gift of salvation given us by God. The verse is truly understood through the following verse, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (13). It is God who is working through is own people for his will and for his good pleasure. The working out is what God is working through us and it is through obedience that we are able to work these things out.



  • Hold fast to the word of life


Phil. 2:16 holding fast to the word of life…


Another way we shine in the world is to hold fast to God's word. The Bible is truly the word of life. So many words offered in the world lead to death but give the impression of life. So many words of the world promise life but have no life. The world is looking for every opportunity to strip away our trust in God’s word. We see it all the time in words that twist the truth into something, to be blunt, just plain evil. It is seen in political correctness, in gender confusion presented as truth, in so called expressions of love that destroy what God established. We must hold fast and in so doing we will shine the only light available in an ever increasing deceptive darkness.



  • Rejoice


Phil. 2:17-18 ...I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.


The last thing I want to lift up from Paul is the end of the selection we are considering. Paul rejoices with the church and the church is called on to rejoice with him. Imagine that you are in prison, can you imagine writing a letter to the church and asking them to rejoice with you? This is what Paul does, but I think it was just a part of who Paul is in Christ. No matter his circumstance, Paul is joyful because of Christ. It is how his light shone in the world and it is one more way that we shine the light of Christ – by being joyful no matter our circumstance. This is not to say that we always have a smile on our faces no matter what we are going through, but it is knowing deep within that whatever we are going through we know that there is more to that circumstance than what we see or feel or experience. In the end, there is Christ who died for us so that nothing in this world can take away the joy and peace and confidence that only Christ can give.



  • Let your light shine (to the glory of God)


In Matthew 5, Jesus says this,

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.


Let your light shine. Paul says we are to shine as lights in this crooked and twisted generation. Jesus and Paul agree that our lights shine not for our own glory, but for God's glory. This is a common theme throughout the scriptures. It is why the first question of the catechism about our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. It is why we are created, to bring glory to God. Isaiah 43:7, “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” It is why we are to shine the light of God to all people, not for our own sake, but for God's sake, that his glory might be known by those who do not currently know. So that the darkness can become lighted with the gospel and turn people to repentance. The way our nation and our world is going demonstrates once again the great need for our light to shine. We cannot hold it under a basket or behind our fears or only shine it inside the church building. We work out our salvation in the public realm, God working out His will and good pleasure through us.


Philippians 2 is primarily about Jesus Christ and His humility and obedience. I want us to see where Paul calls us to shine as lights in our context. This is so important in our time as it has always been in any time. Christ is our example. Let us follow Him in humility and obedience, working out of the salvation God has given, holding fast to the word, and rejoicing in Jesus Christ our savior. This is the gift we give to the world, to shine our lights to the glory of God. Amen.