Title: This Little Light Of Mine
Series: Philippians (14/20)
Reference: Philippians 2:14-16

If you have a Bible, I want to invite you to open up to the New Testament book of Philippians.  We’ve been studying the book of Philippians on Sunday mornings.  We’re in chapter 2.  The title of today’s message is “This Little Light Of Mine.”  I’ll begin reading with verse 14, and I’m going to ask if you’re physically able, let’s all stand in honor & reverence, for the reading of God’s holy word.  The Word of God says in Philippians chapter 2, beginning with verse 14:

Do all things without grumbling or disputing 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, 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.

Father would you add your blessing upon the proclamation of your Word and it is in Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.  You can be seated.

I’d like to start today off with a little audience participation.  You guys are up for it, right?  It is going to be fun.  What I want to do is to begin to sing a song, and I want you to finish it.   Alright, now you have got to sing loud.  Unless somebody wants to come up here and volunteer … anybody?   Anybody … any takers … is your hand up?   No!  Okay, I thought your hand was up!   (laughs)   Alright, I am going to start a song and I want you to finish the song.   Don’t worry, you are going to know the song.  It is an old, old song, no doubt in my mind you will know the words, so don’t let yourself get all anxious, thinking what if I don’t know what to say.   You’ll know what to say.  Okay, here we go.

SINGS:   This little light of mine …
AUDIENCE:  I’m going to let it shine.

Okay, that is good, that is really good.  You guys just nailed that.  Let’s sing that, alright.

SINGS:   This little light of mine …
AUDIENCE:  I’m going to let it shine.
SINGS:   This little light of mine …   good, good
AUDIENCE:  I’m going to let it shine.
SINGS:   This little light of mine … one more time …
AUDIENCE:  I’m going to let it shine.
SINGS:   Now altogether, … let it shine, let it shine, let it shine
AUDIENCE:  let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Hey, you guys are great!  Turn to your neighbor and say you sound pretty good!  Turn to your other neighbor and say I wish I could say the same for you!

This little light of mine, I am going to let it shine.   Paul actually picks up on some of that language in our passage today.  Did you catch that at the end of verse 15, Paul speaks about living for God in such a way that we might appear as lights in the world?

When Paul speaks about light here, he’s talking about lights like the sun and the moon and the stars.  Those are the lights in the world.  In a world that otherwise would be dark, in a world that otherwise would be blackened, there are the lights, there is the sun, there is the moon, there are the stars.   In an otherwise dark world God has given light that gives life.   And the Bible says that is exactly how you are supposed to live, as a disciple of Christ you should be living your life in such a way that you appear, Paul would say, you appear as a light in the world.  In an otherwise dark world, in a blackened society, in a world that would otherwise be in darkness, you are to live your life in such a way that you give off light.

Jesus used this same theme on the Sermon on the Mount.  Matthew chapter 5, verse 14, Jesus said speaking to a group of his disciples … You are the light of the world.   Now I always thought that was interesting that Jesus doesn’t say “do this” and you will be light.  He just says you are the light.   You are the light, whether you are a good light, or a bad light, or a bright light or a dim light, you are just the light by nature of who you are.  We are the light because the light lives in us and Jesus says you are the light of the world.  So the goal is to just go out and to live your life to let what was already inside of you shine for others to see.  This is what Paul was saying in Philippians, chapter 2:  Do all things without grumbling or disputing 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.   This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.

And that is what we want, isn’t it?  We want to shine for Christ.  We want to live our lives in such a way that others may be directed towards Christ.  We want to be light, life giving, soul refreshing, God honoring light in a dark world, but what exactly does that look like?  How exactly do we live our life in such a way that we appear as lights in a crooked and perverse generation?

Paul gives us some very pointed guidance here in Philippians chapter 2.  The man who is in jail, right, gives us some very pointed guidance about what it means to live your life and to let your light shine for others to see.   If you are taking notes this morning, this passage breaks down for us real easy.  First, Paul is going to give us a command, and then he is going to give us two reasons why we should obey the commands.   Real simple, he gives us a command, and then two reasons why we should obey the commands.

The command is in verse 14.  Do all things without grumbling or disputing.  Number one on your notes says it like this:  the command is to stop grumbling and to stop complaining.  Right, stop grumbling and stop complaining.

The commands are pretty straight forward.  Do all things without grumbling, and then the NASB, the translation that I use, has disputing there.  The words grumble and dispute, these two words are very much alike but there is a little bit of difference between the two.  Grumbling is internal, disputing is external.  Grumbling might be like me speaking underneath my own breath, like rumbling, like complaining to myself underneath my own breath, whereas disputing would be like the internal grumbling is not being projected out loud, which is why I chose to capture that with the word “complaining”.

So the commands here are crystal clear.  Stop grumbling and stop complaining.  And the scope of the commands, the range of these commands extend to all things.  Do you know what all things means in the Greek?  All things!   All things means all things.  So all of life, all of your life, live all of your life, be what God has made you to be, do what God has made you to do, serve in the way that God has made you to serve, engage in ministry in the way that God has wired you to engage in ministry, and do all of that, engage in all of life without grumbling or complaining.

Now somebody tell me, when you think of grumbling or complaining in the Bible, who are the classic example of folks who grumbled and complained in the Bible?   Israel, right.  Yeah, that is exactly who I thought about this week as I thought about who could I use as an illustration … cause we don’t have any in here … right … we don’t have illustrations of grumbling and complaining (laughter), so I thought of Israel.

You want to talk about a people that grumbled and complained and completely lost sight of what God had done in their lives.  How many times have you read the Exodus narrative and thought how could these people complain so much.   Is it not just ridiculous?  They are in Egypt, and they grumble and complain because they are in Egypt.  God moves and brings them out of Egypt, and they grumble and complain that they are not back in Egypt.  They think our lives would have been better back in slavery.   They grumble and complaint about not having enough food, so God gives them manna from heaven.    And as if that that miracle and provision was not enough, they walk out and see every morning the faithfulness of God, and they grumbled and complained about having to eat manna everyday.  God gives them meat, and then it is just a matter of time before they grumble and complain about something else.

They are always whining, and crying, and criticizing, and just questioning, and they do this for forty years and then when they finally get to the threshold of the promised land, guess what they do.  They grumble and complain some more!   We read that and we think man, these guys just don’t get it, right.  God moves, provides, shows up time and time again, and yet they want something to be just a little bit different, right.  Then God provides and they just want something to be a little bit different.  Listen, God has blessed us as a church family.   You think about all the ways that God has showed up in the last year.  Let’s not be like Israel.  Let’s not sit back and nick-pick and think about man, if things could be just a little different.  If I could just have this or if I could just have that, we could just do something a little bit different.  Let’s choose to be thankful for the provisions that God has given us.

There is a great verse tucked away in the book of Lamentations, Lamentations chapter 3, verse 39 says this:  Why should any man offer complaint in view of his sins?   That is what it says.  That is a great verse to memorize.  Lamentations chapter 3, verse 39:  Why should any man offer complaint in view of his sins?  The author is saying, look, your sins are forgiven, what do you really have to complain about?  Right?  Amen?  I mean Amen or Oh me!  Right.  If nothing goes your way for the rest of your life, your sins are forgiven, I think you are going to come out ahead.

Here’s the truth, there are some things in life that we get to do, there are some things in life that we have to do, and there are some things in life we chose to do.  You tell me which one is grumbling and complaining.   Chose to do, chose to do.  We don’t have to grumble and complain.   We sure don’t get to grumble and complain, we chose.  We chose – it is about focus, it is about perspective.  Are you thankful to be out of Egypt or are you complaining about the hot sun.  Are you thankful for the provision of the manna or are you looking for something else.  Are you thankful to be on the edge of the promised land or are you looking elsewhere.  It is about perspective and focus, and you get to chose where your focus dwells, and anytime you grumble or complain it is because you chose to be that way.

The Bible says in Philippians chapter two, in verse 14, that your life should not be that way.  Do all things without grumbling or disputing.  It just shouldn’t be that way in your life.   Let me give you two reasons why.  Paul gives us two reasons why.

Number two on your notes.  So the command is to stop grumbling and stop complaining and then Paul gives us two reasons why.  So number two on your notes, two reasons why grumbling and complaining are not okay.  Now clearly we should not grumble and we should not complain because God says not to.  Right?  That should settle it.  As men and women who have chosen to bend the knee as a disciple of Christ, as men and women who have said I am going to follow Christ and I am not going to do what I want to do in my life, I am going to do what Christ wants me to do in my life.  When he says not to grumble or complain we should say that’s it.   I’m not going to grumble.  I’m not going to complain because it is offensive to God.  God says to avoid it.  It is a sin, it is a reproach in the eyes of God.  It is not an issue of a lose tongue, it is not an issue of being discerning, it is not an issue of being outspoken and that is just the way God has made you.  No, it is a sin.   It is a sin to grumble and complain, and that alone should be reason enough to avoid it, but Paul takes a little different perspective and he looks at grumbling and complaining, specifically in the church context, and how that would hinder our testimony to the world.

He gives us two reasons why in light of our testimony, in light of our evangelistic mission to make disciples, Paul says there are two reasons why you should not grumble and complain.  Number one, because it is inconsistent.  

Look at what he says back in verse 14.  Do all things without grumbling or disputing so that you will prove yourselves to be …  Paul says don’t do it.  He says resist the urge to grumble and complain so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent children of God above reproach.  Now that is who you are spiritually.  That is who you are in position, that is who you are in Christ, you are blameless, you are innocent, you are a child of God above reproach, not in your own righteousness but clothed in the righteousness of Christ.  That is who you are spiritually, but practically speaking, Paul says that you need to live in such a way that might prove that.  You need to live in such a way that when someone looks at your life, and you say I am a Christian, I am a child of God, they don’t say ‘get out of here, are you kidding me’.

Paul says this is who you are in position.  A blameless, innocent, child of God.  Now prove yourselves to be that way before this dark world, before this crooked and perverse generation.  Prove yourself to be who you are in position.

Well, you say how do I do that?  One really easy way, back at the beginning of verse 14, do all things without grumbling or complaining.   And this is how this little light of mine is to shine … how does my light shine?   By refusing to grumble and complain as I live out my life in a crooked and perverse generation.   It is just so simple, isn’t it.   To me, I have read this over and over.  I have prayed over this and thought about this, because when I first came to this passage I thought there has got to be something I am missing.  This is just too simple.  If I don’t grumble and complain this is what my testimony will look like to the world?   This is what our church could look like to the world, blameless and innocent, above reproach, shining as a light in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.   We could have that kind of testimony, just by living a life for Jesus and doing so without being negative.  Boy, that’s pretty powerful, isn’t it!   That is exactly what the scriptures are saying.

It is so simple, let’s not miss the simplicity of what Paul is saying.  Do all things without grumbling or complaining or disputing so that you may prove yourselves to be children of God, blameless, innocent, above reproach living in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.  This is so simple.  It is inconsistent with who we are as a child of God to spend our lives grumbling and complaining.

Do you know why?  Lamentations chapter 3, verse 34, right.  What man can offer complaint to the Lord in view of his sins.  Look, if your sins are forgiven, who are you to complain?   What do you really have to grumble about if you stand right with the Father.  The Bible would say you are supposed to be the salt of the earth.  You are supposed to be the light of the world and a grumbling, complaining, criticizing belly aching voice isn’t exactly reflective of the Father’s heart.

And did you notice this?  We are to be in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.   That’s what this verse 15 says.  Verse 14 says don’t grumble, don’t complain so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent children of God above reproach in the midst … did you see that … in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.   I love that phrase.   It is the sense that we are out here living our life out in the middle of a crooked and perverse generation.

Anybody feel like we are living in that generation now?  So the questions becomes, how does your light shine?   How can you live for Jesus and reflect the love and character and the nature of God when living in this kind of a dark world.  The Word of God says don’t grumble and don’t complain as you live in the midst of this crooked and perverse generation and as you do that, you are going to appear as a light, as a light in the darkness.

But I love this phrase in the midst of.  It is not like we are supposed to go over here off to the side and we build our own little Christian community, where we only hang out in our own little Christian groups and we only let Christians in.   If the only friends you have are Christians, you are in trouble.  You need to get out.  You need to make some friends that are not Christians.  Do you realize how much time Jesus hung around people who were not like him?  Jesus hung around people that didn’t think like he would think, that didn’t talk like he would talk, he hung around people who were downright offensive to him and the mission that he came to give his life for.  Yet he hung around them and, sometimes I feel like we have this tendency as Christians to … and I am not saying that fellowship is wrong.  We need community, we need to surround ourselves with like-minded people, but we can’t get over here in our holy huddle and the people who need to see the light never see the light because we spend all of our time around other light.   And then every now and then we will like throw a bomb and say look how sinful they are!  Look how far away from God they are!  That is not what the Bible is calling us to

The Bible says that we are to live in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.  That doesn’t mean that we become like the world, that is a distinction we have to make and again Jesus is the great example here.  Jesus spent all of his time with people that were not like him, did not think like him, didn’t hold the same values and convictions that he did, yet he never became like them.  Jesus never lost his distinctiveness as the Son of God.  He was separated from sin, separated unto God, yet he was in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, living his life, following the will of God so that when those divine appointments showed up (like the woman at the well), he could point them to the father.

This is what the Bible says we are to do.  We are not to seclude ourselves.  We are not to gather together in our holy huddle and push away the world, but we are to be in the midst of the world, to rub shoulders with people of the world.  This is why we need Christian teachers, and Christian students, and Christian administrators and Christian counselors.  This is why we need Christians in our government offices.  This is why we need Christian shop owners, and Christian ditch diggers, and just faithful blue collar workers who are following Christ.  We need Christians in all of those areas of influence so that when in all of those areas of influence the divine appointments comes, we can be the light that points the way to the Father.

This kind of leads us into number two.   Two reasons why grumbling and complaining are not okay, number one because it is inconsistent, and number two is because others are watching.

This is an evangelistic emphasis behind what Paul is saying here.  Do all things without grumbling or disputing 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.  Paul is saying.  How you live your life for Christ determines how brightly you shine for Christ.  How you live your life determines how brightly you shine for Christ.  That is what Paul is saying in the midst of this dark world, in the midst of your family, your friends, your school, your job, your co-workers–  How you live in this world impacts how you shine for Jesus, and we know that, don’t we.

Paul specifically applies this to the words that we speak, don’t grumble, don’t complain.  And we know because we know a little bit about the historical setting of Philippians, we know that there was some friction in the church.  There was a lack of unity in the church and Paul is beginning to point his finger at that and he says now look, do all things without grumbling or complaining, and you will show yourself as a blameless, innocent child of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation and this is how you appear as lights in the world.  We know that how we live determines how we shine, and we know that is related not to just the things we do, but it is also the things we say.   And they both complement one another, it is like you can’t just say you are a Christian and live anyway you want to live and expect to shine bright for Jesus.

Your words and your life, they both complement one another.   There is an evangelistic emphasis behind this, do all things without grumbling or disputing so that people will know, people will know not by just the life you live, but also by the words you speak or chose not to speak that you are different.   You are following Christ, you are a child of the King.  So the words that come out of our mouths actually matter.  They have the potential to sway a witness one way or another way.

In fact Jesus would say this, in Matthew chapter 12, in verse 34, he would say that your mouth actually speaks out of the abundance of your heart.   So if your little chatter box is always grumbling and complaining, what might that reveal about the condition of your heart in relationship to Jesus.   So the Bible says don’t grumble, don’t complain, as you do that you are going to shine as a light in a dark world, and then he says this in verse 16, holding fast the word of life, holding fast the word of life.  That is a picture of the gospel, the gospel is the word that brings life.  Man apart from Christ is spiritually dead, so we are to bear witness.  We are here in this world to bear witness to the light, to the word that brings life, to the gospel.   The gospel that changes and awakens the Spirit, that makes us alive to God, in right relationship to the Father, we bear witness to that both, both by how we live, and what we say.

So if you look at this in the whole of what Paul is saying, you see a contrast here.  Paul says don’t be a complaining church, be a proclaiming church, and proclaim the word of life, the word that brings life, the gospel, not just with your actions as you appear as a light in the world, but with your words.

I am sure you remember the song:

SINGS:  This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine

How?   Do not grumble, do not complain, live your life as a light for Jesus and a hold forth the word, the gospel that brings life.  Hold that forth by the life you live, by the words you say, and shine for Jesus.

Let me pray for us.

Father, we thank you for this time together in your Word.  We thank you for your spirit that helps us to get it.  Your Spirit Father that even sometimes makes us feel a little bit uncomfortable and uneasy about the things that we read and are confronted with in your Word.  And Father, there is no doubt in my heart, Lord there is not a person in this room, there is not a person within the sound of my voice that in some measure does not need to repent this morning.   Father, that includes me.  

Lord, as much as we would like to think that we are not like the people of Israel, we are far from that, the truth is Father, we are very much like that.   The truth is, Father, that is exactly how we are, we have a tendency, a sinful tendency to push aside your provisions, to not recall the good things that you have done and to always be looking for something else.  

And Father, it is true, we get to chose what we are going to focus on.  I pray you would help us to chose the right thing.   To live our lives for you well, so we might shine well for others to see the beauty, the message of the gospel, that is greater than any particular preference we may have, whether manna or quail, or Egypt or the desert or whatever.  Father, help us to live our lives in light of the gospel and help us to live as light, help us to shine for you in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, ever quick to hold forth that word of life, that gospel, not by just the way we live but by the words that we speak.

Father, give us grace to do that, give us grace to repent of our grumbling and our complaining.  Give us grace to confess that and to lay that before you and to agree with you Father, this is not a good thing.   Lord, give us an eager spirit to stand under your mercy and to allow you to cleanse our hearts and to cleanse our minds to make us right with you.  We love you Father, we thank you for your grace, speak to us now, give us courage to follow you.  It is in Jesus’ name we pray.  AMEN

 

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