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Sweat, Sparkle and Serve

Published: 2 years ago- 13 March 2022
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Big Idea: Gospel obedience is the diligent perseverance and service in the direction God has pointed you and directs you.
Mum’s caramel/chocolate/lemon pie. Secret recipe, won’t share. Please write down … but it’s mum’s secret
Today’s passage we have Paul’s recipe for pushing on in nature gospel faith. He is more than happy to share. Paul is detained, in jail, away from his beloved church. Paul has heard of the opposition they are facing because of their continued gospel stance. And he is writing to encourage them and exhort them to push on, keep going in mature gospel faith. But he knows that it is their decision, their responsibility, it is their faith.
This is not a keyboard warrior, an armchair critic, but a loving, engaged parent. He is passionately connected.
In many ways the Philippian church was a model church. And yet Paul is concerned to write to them, to encourage them, to teach them and push them on in perseverance of mature gospel faith. Which is a reminder to us that no matter how well we think we are going as a church or as individuals we still need God’s Word delivered to and applied to us. It is good for you to be here today. And if you feel that you are struggling a bit then how much more do we need this teaching and exhortation. What’s Paul’s recipe for a mature gospel faith? Two ingredients … One instruction or if we are going with the recipe theme … one method. Let’s take a look… First ingredient

SWEAT (V12-13)

Read v12-13. Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose.
Those words‘work out’ (v12) are similar to how we use those words, talking about strenuous work. Paul is calling his readers to serious spiritual sweat.
He is the office manager demanding a hard day’s work; teacher demanding solid study habits, for good marks, the gym instructor pushing you through a killer session. That is the language – strenuously work out your salvation
But we need to be very clear about the relationship between this strenuous work that Paul is calling for and the salvation that he is talking about. Now notice: Paul says work out your salvation NOT work for your salvation. There’s a huge difference. In the sense of these verses salvation is already theirs,
v12 your salvation, the salvation that you have of their faith in Jesus.
It was on the cross that Christ’s once for all sacrifice paid the cost of our sin. It was on the cross where Christ bore the full weight of God’s wrath generated by our sin. Propitiation Our salvation has been won through Christ alone. Our standing with God … DECLARED RIGHT There is nothing left for us to do in relation to gaining salvation. I bought some crushed garlic in a jar recently. On the label it says crushed garlic; in ingredients list it boasts 95% garlic!!! I wanted garlic – what’s in the other 5%??? Please understand. Salvation IS NOT 95% Jesus, 5% us. It is not even that Jesus has achieved 99% of our salvation through his work on the cross and now it’s up to us to work hard and earn that last 1%. We are not called to work for our salvation. That has been achieved by Jesus for all who have called on him as their Lord and Saviour. Amen to that? But we are called to work out our salvation. Sanctification Confident obedience. v12 Obedience – if you love Jesus you will do what he says. v13 Confidence – God gives His people the capacity to live as His people… Holy Spirit giving you the desire to live God’s way and the capacity to do it. Grateful response.
v12 Therefore … Because of all that Christ has done and achieved for you SWEAT, work out your salvation. How will you respond to Christ’s great love for you – His costly rescue mission for you? v12 continue to obey … work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
Examine your life to ensure that you are living as a citizen of heaven; walking in a manner worthy of your calling. Examine your life to ensure that you are bearing the fruit of God at work in you (v13 fulfilling God’s good purpose) – promoting the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22f). Persevere in the struggle against sin. Patiently and persistently killing off sin in your life.
Most nights not long before I go to bed I go downstairs to the back yard, turn on the flood light and with my specially designed tool I whack any cane toads on the back lawn. The first time I did it there were close to a dozen. Now I’m down to one or two. Last night there weren’t any!
Just imagine your sin as a cane toad. Ugly, ferrel things you need to dispatch. What tools will you use to kill it? Accountability with a trusted Christian friend. Careful planning to make sure you do not find yourself in certain situations that are not helpful for you. Being vigilant and realistic about the real impact of what you watch or read or look at online. Letting the Word dwell in you richly – reflecting and remembering. Prayer. Obeying Jesus and killing sin in your life – that’s what it means to SWEAT. The evidence could be as simple as a daily commitment to be in the word and on your knees. a resolute commitment to take Jesus at his word trusting that your eternity is secure in His work and your calling is to continually put your confidence in Him; a desire and determination to love and serve others. It might be things that no one sees, your pastor never mentions, or for which you never attract the praise of people. Your love for and faith in Jesus bearing fruit in the day to day traffic of life. The fear and trembling v12 is not a nervousness of failure but a burning desire to be faithful. It’s strenuous work. I take it that if it was easy and obvious then Paul would not feel the need to write and remind them, urge them to do this thing. This tells me that holy living as one of Jesus’ followers is going to take energy, effort, focus. So men, I’ll address you for a minute: – we are called to be leaders among our families and in our churches. We not only need to be disciplined ourselves but we need to lead and assist those whom God has placed under our care. Young men work on your character, Christ like character. Reflect on 2 Peter 1:4-11 Virtue, knowledge of the Word, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection and love. Young women DO NOT entertain the attentions of a young men without such character. TO ALL OF US a reminder that we are all called to work on our faith, our life – that there are expectations on followers of Jesus; that Christianity is not set and forget, it’s not a one-time commitment followed by a life of neglect.
It was my birthday on Wednesday, 54! As I get older I realise that it is getting harder to attain and maintain the body shape that I am happy with. So I need to watch my diet, I need to get regular exercise, I need to be mindful of not being sedentary for too long. It takes effort and attention.
True too of the life of faith. What are you letting in here … (eyes, ears, brain, heart)? Are you strenuously developing the mind of Christ? Through his word, Christian books (theology and biographies), robust discussions of faith with each other; THE ONE THING. Are you strenuously committed to selfless sacrifice for the temporal and eternal good of others? Work OUT your salvation with fear and trembling – it’s an ongoing priority in the life of the believer. First ingredient … SWEAT The second ingredient …

SPARKLE (V14-18)

Read v14-18. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labour in vain. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.
This second point is a call to live obediently now in light of eternity to come. v14-15a Paul is referring to two negative examples, two references to disobedience in the OT.
Verse 14 straight out of OT book of Numbers. Where people who have been rescued from slavery and are on the way to the promise land. It’s a journey of faith.
In Numbers we read the people are impatient and cranky; grumbling and arguing in the wilderness. Grumbling against God – I want to go back to slavery. We had leeks and garlic and cucumbers. Oh, remember the cucumbers? Arguing – with Moses, who made you the boss? Don’t be like this. Rather SPARKLE with Obedience and Faith. v14a (not grumbling) trust God in all that he is given you and the promises he has made. v14b (not arguing) Impatience and immediate (I want it now). We were leaving Ballina one time on way to Sydney, a ten hour ordeal. Then it started from the back seat – are we there yet? Kids, that’s the Big Prawn, we haven’t even left Ballina don’t start that!!! Don’t be impatient and immediate – it’s so annoying. Second negative example. v15 the warped and crooked generation comment is a reference to Deut 32. Moses has listed the blessings of obeying God in the promise land – abundant crops and flocks, fruitful families, no attacks from enemies. The curses were the very opposite described in horrific detail. Then God says through Moses – I know that you will disobey. Here is a song to remember Deut 32 – warped and crooked generation who reject and disobey the one truth faithful God.
My view from Mt Nebo. Israel looked like a sandpit. Lecturer’s observation – all God if this to be a land of blessing.
1 Cor 10:1-13. Example of what not to do. Here are the Israelites. They grumble and argue and didn’t get into the promise land. Don’t be like them.
Warped and crooked describes the scenes on the news at the moment in the aftermath or war and flood. A mess of warped and crooked, broken and twisted debris. A visual representation of life apart from God, a life of disobedience.
v15b-16a The shining stars in a dark sky
I have the image of diamonds on black felt reflecting the light in all their glory. The shining stars … _is another OT reference; Daniel 12:3. Daniel was shown a vision of the day of judgment when everyone will be raised up, some to everlasting judgment but others, God’s people, to everlasting life. And those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the sky above, and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. To shine like stars in the dark sky in this world is to live your life now as if the day of judgment really is coming; as if there really will be a separation of the wicked from the righteous. To shine like stars in the dark sky among them is to live now pointing others to the gospel of salvation. You won’t be able to do that if you are whinging in the back seat, are we there yet?! Taking the v12 Therefore seriously – Christ will return, the truth will be seen, the consequences will be eternal. QTC graduation the other night. Had to watch it online but so good. Errol going up to get his award. Sam dancing across the stage and grabbing Gary in a bear hug. A few years ago I finished a course of study that I had undertaken over the previous 7 years. I had one more assignment to go, an 8000 word essay. It was seriously the hardest essay I have ever had to write. There were a number of times that I was so close to just giving up on the whole thing. Who cares about a stupid academic award? Just a dumb bit of paper! I listened to an audio book on Grit. Stickability. Keeping the end goal in sight and working hard toward it. And it really helped. I got it done. I received my results – I passed. I achieved the award – and I must admit that it felt so good, still does. It’s this grit that Paul is calling his readers to. Shine like stars means to persevere in godliness. Not to give in to grumbling against God or arguing among his people. To push on, displaying the character of Christ in our lives. Navigation by the stars. In times past people used the stars to navigate the way. Be stars that navigate people to Christ. Be pointers to Christ Jesus. Paul says this is not in vain. v16b then Paul’s ministry among them has not been in vain – they will have been found to have persevered in the faith to the glory of God. Perseverance – marathon not a sprint. 1 Cor 9:25-27 v17-18 I am happy for my life to be poured out like a drink offering on the altar if it means you are growing in your faith, your salvation. Another OT reference – but you get the picture don’t you; a life poured out before God, to his honour and for his praise and glory. You too, rejoice in this too.
If I leave it all on the field for Jesus it’s worth it.
In the end, says Paul, if my life has been completely used up for the purposes and glory of God, if in my straining, sweating and struggling God is praised, then it will not have been in vain. True for all of us. An ageing Christian once warned a young enthusiastic John G. Paton as he prepared for missionary work in the South Sea Islands, “You’ll be eaten by Cannibals!” Paton replied, “Mr Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, where you will be eaten by worms; and in the Great Day my resurrection body will arise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.” If I’m eaten by cannibals for the cause of Christ it will not be in vain. “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past; Only what’s done for Christ will last.” Will you sparkle? Will you put the gospel first in your life? Will you shine like stars as you hold out the life giving truth of Jesus? Even though Mum’s secret recipe is a secret she still does make it and serve it and so for the time being all is forgiven. The key to having a good recipe, secret or disclosed is … serving. True for Paul’s recipe as well. Two ingredients SWEAT and SPARKLE; one method …

SERVE (V19-30)

Read v19-21, 25, 27, 29-30.
Two examples, Timothy and Epaphroditus. These guys have the mind of Christ, they are working out their salvation with fear and trembling, they are shining like stars in the dark universe. They sweat, they sparkle, they serve. Timothy v20-22, here is a rarity, says Paul, no one like him. Here is a man who has the mind of Christ, concerned for what God is concerned for, places the highest priority on gospel toil, working hard and faithfully. Epaphroditus v25, brother, co-worker, fellow soldier. Not because he has a high profile ministry but because he is servant hearted. Happy to be the gospel gopher, the ministry messenger. The guy who values service to others over his self interests. Paul does not make a distinction between the up front ministry of Timothy or the behind-the-scenes work of Epaphroditus. Both living in light of Christ’s work for his people 2:6-11. They have taken the v12 Therefore seriously. He celebrates their servant hearts and calls his readers to honour them and I think the inference is to imitate them. When I was at school a radio was the most technologically advance bit of gear in the classroom. Once a week my kindergarten classmates and I would sit cross-legged on the floor and listen to stories for school kids on our classroom radio. Every week they would choose different names, and each week we’d wait to see if they would use our names. I never got a mention. Lisa, Peter, Michael, John, even Beatrice. But not Hamish! Scared me for life. I don’t think I’ll ever recover! But here is my chance, here is our chance to get our names in the story, to play an active role in God’s gospel story. We will be putting out a sign up sheet for serving. Maybe you can find something to sign up for. Maybe it’s just you getting to church, at the moment that’s all you can do – thanks for being here. Maybe it’s making Youth a priority and going along with the new format. Maybe it’s being regular at Growth Group, talking to someone standing by themselves after church, it could be as simple as welcoming a visitor. Maybe our names will never get read out on a ministry honour role in this life – I’m certain that’s not what Timothy and Epaphroditus were after. But Paul is outlining the mindset for those who have their names inked in the honour roll of heaven. The good and faithful servants are those with the mind of Christ, who toil for obedient lives, and persevere in that obedience, living lives which honour Jesus and bring glory to the Father. They sweat, they sparkle and they serve. The take the v12 Therefore seriously. They know that … “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past; Only what’s done for Christ will last.”