Sunday, January 30, 2011

[Matt's Messages] “Living Out the Gospel in 2011”

“Living Out the Gospel in 2011”
January 30, 2011
Philippians 2:12-18

In a just a few minutes, we’re going to go back that hallway there and have our Annual Reports Meal and Meeting.  Everyone here is welcome to stay here for that.

But I doubt that everyone will.  Some of you have other places that you need to be after church today.  So this year, I thought I’d use the sermon time to give you a vision for our church’s life for 2011.

That’ll make the meeting shorter, as I won’t have to get to preaching there, and it will help us all stay on the same page as a church, whether you make the meeting today or not.

This vision for 2011 comes from Philippians chapter 2, verses 12-18.  And I’m going to call this vision-casting message “Living OUT the Gospel in 2011.”

Did you notice what was the first word of our passage?  I’d like this to be a kind of theme for 2011, a theme passage of Scripture.  But it starts with a connecting word.  Did you notice?


And very wise people have always taught us that when you see a therefore in Scripture what should you do?

Find out what it’s there for, right?

When you see a therefore, find out what it’s there for.

Verse 18 is the not beginning of Paul’s thought.

The Apostle Paul has been talking about the gospel.

The good news about Jesus.

The good news that Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be held onto at all costs, but made himself nothing and became like us and took on our sin and died for us.

That’s good news because we couldn’t pay for our own sin.  We need a sinless savior to sacrifice Himself in our place.

And the good news doesn’t end there.  Paul just shared that God exalted Jesus to the highest place–He came back to life!–and gave Him the name above every name.

V.10 “...that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow [everywhere] in heaven and  on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father...”


That’s where we come in today.  The glorious gospel of the exalted Lordship of our Savior Jesus Christ has implications for our lives today.

Living Out the Gospel.

In reality, we can’t live out the gospel.  The gospel is this good news about Jesus.  It is something that can be proclaimed and shared but not lived out.

But you know what I mean.

I mean that we need to live off of this gospel.  We need to live lives in keeping with the gospel.  We need to live as though the gospel were true [which it is!].  We need to live “Gospelly.”  To live “Gospelish.”  To live the implications of the Good News.  To live out of the Gospel.

Living Out the Gospel in 2011.

Four points of application this morning for our lives and our church in 2011.

#1.  Living Out the Gospel Means WORKING OUT OUR SALVATION.

I get that from v.12.   Look at v.12.

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed [God’s will]–not only in my presence [when I lived in Philippi], but now much more in my absence [while I’m stuck in a Roman prison]–continue [to OBEY!] to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” Stop there.

Paul says, “THEREFORE” because of the Gospel “work out your salvation.”

Now, what does that mean?  It probably sounds a little dangerous to some of our ears.

Notice very carefully that it does NOT say:

“Work FOR your salvation!”  The Philippians were not supposed to earn their way into God’s good graces.  That’s impossible, heretical, and will damn you if you try.  It does NOT say “Work FOR your salvation.”

Notice also that it does NOT say:

“Work to KEEP your salvation.”  The Philippians were not being taught that God got them just so far by grace and now they have to maintain and preserve their salvation by working, working, working in obedience.

It says, “Work OUT your salvation.”

That means to live out the full potential of the gift of your salvation–to live out of it.  You have it, now what are you going to do with it?  What difference does it make that you have salvation?  Work that out!  Work out the details, the entailments, the applications, the “SO WHAT’s” of being saved.  Realize the full potential of your salvation.  See it actualized. 

It’s inside of you, let it out!

This is a call to obedience.  The Gospel is not just provide to be believed.  It also provides something to be obeyed.  Look again at the logic in v.12.

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed [key word]–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–[you have always obeyed] continue [to obey!] to work out your salvation with fear and trembling...”

Live it out!  Act like a Christian!  Do God’s will.  Find out what pleases the Lord and get busy!  Get obedient.  Get a little crazy for Christ!  The Gospel is real–act like it!

The Gospel has come to you–work out what that means for you NOW.  What does it mean that you have salvation as a father? as a mother? as a son? as a daughter? on the job? at school? at a sporting event? on the open road?  What does it mean that you have salvation? Work it out!  Actualize your salvation.  Live it out!

Obedience is called for. It is necessary.  It doesn’t save you.  It doesn’t keep you saved.  But because of the Gospel, it is a requirement.

Therefore, as you have always obeyed, work out your salvation.

And do it, Paul says, with FEAR and TREMBLING.  Not cowering terror at a holy God who is going to judge you, but awesome reverence at a God Who has judged His own Son for you and is calling you into His own service. 

Working out your salvation is not to be done lightly, flippantly, as if the blood of the Son of God was not infinitely precious.  Fear and trembling are called for. He is an Awesome God giving us an Awesome Savior through an Awesome Gospel!  Work out your salvation, Christian, with fear and trembling.

Now, lest we think that we can’t do this command [and we can’t on our own!]...lest we are unsure where the power and enablement will come from to work out our salvation [and it won’t be us!], Paul gives us v.13.  I love v.13!

“[Work out your salvation with fear and trembling] for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”

Do you catch the story here? 

God is at work!

God does not do it for us.  He does it IN us.
God is supplying the necessary enablement, empowering.
God is working in us and through us to realize our salvation in our lives.

We both work.  This does not let us off of the hook. We are still supposed to work out our salvation–but we do it because (FOR) God is at work in us doing it Himself!

We work out–God works in!

Now, lots of people don’t put these two verses together.  Some people love v.12 and some people love v.13.  But they are both necessary and are connected.

Some people love the call to obedience in v.12.  “Work it out! It’s up to you, Christian.  Walk the walk!  Just do it!”

Some people love the assurance of v.13.  “Let go and let God!  It’s God’s job to sanctify me, to grow me in Christlikeness.”

But both are true. Both are needed.  V.13 is more important than v.12–God is the much bigger Worker (with a capital W!).  But it doesn’t negate the call of v.12.  It establishes it.

Some people are de-motivated by v.13.  “Well, if God is doing all that, why bother doing anything?”  But v.13 is the MOTIVE, the very reason God gives FOR us to do v.12.

“[Work out your salvation with fear and trembling] for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”

Notice the level at which God works!  He doesn’t just empower.  He actually works at the level of your WILL.  If you ever grow in Christ-like-ness, it’s because God is at work in you to WILL it.

Some of you may have been taught that God can’t mess with your will.  But here’s a verse right here that says that He better!  If God is actually at work in you, He is moving your will towards Him.

So therefore, WORK OUT YOUR SALVATION in 2011.

Are you doing that?  Are you actualizing the potential of the salvation that is inside of you?  Are you living out the gospel? 

How are you going to work out your salvation in 2011?

None of us are doing it perfectly.  But are we growing?  Are we headed in the right direction?  Are we on the right path?

Jesus died for us–not so that we could go on living like the world but–so that we could work out all of what it means to be saved in a daily walk of obedience to Him.

I’ve been recently convicted in my own life of pockets of passive disobedience. It’s not that I set out to disobey God or to be unholy, but I find myself backing into it.

God has called me to work out my salvation with fear and trembling.  But all too often, try to coast through my Christian life without WORK.  Work is work!

What do I want to work for?

But those pockets of passive disobedience will only fester grow and hold me back from blessing.

They have to be cleaned out.

In 2011, I need to roll up my sleeves and get to work.  Working out my salvation, becoming like Christ, becoming holy, FOR I know that God is at work within me to will and to act according to His good purpose.

In v.14, Paul gets more specific.

“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life...”  Let’s stop there.

This is what it means to work out your salvation.  It means to live differently than the unbelieving people around you.

#2.  Living Out the Gospel Means STANDING OUT IN OUR GENERATION.

Look at v.14 again.

“Do everything without complaining or arguing...”  Yikes!  That’s quite a command!

I was thinking about this as I wrote the sermon this week.  I’ve been working on this book on resisting gossip.  Maybe I should be writing a book about resisting grumbling!

And I find myself complaining about this book all the time.

I’m sorry, Heather Joy, for you having to listen to me go and on and on about.

You’ve been very patient and longsuffering with me.  I’m sorry.

And I was thinking last night, that I had to preach a sermon today that says, “Do everything without complaining or arguing.”  Be careful what you preach; you just may have to live it!

Paul is drawing here from the story of Israel in the Old Testament.  Especially the complaining part. 

Other translations translate this “grumbling” or “murmuring”–which is what Israel did in the desert.

Murmur is one of those words that sounds like what it is.  Every body say “murmur, murmur, murmur, murmur” the person next to you.  Go ahead.

“murmur, murmur, murmur, murmur”

You see?

It means to grumble against the goodness of God.  And we do it so much more often than we realize.

And to argue means to dispute.  To wrangle.  To fight with one another.  Anti-unity.  Church-fights.  Believers in conflict.  Some of the Philippians were struggling with one-another.  (Check out Euodia and Syntyche in chapter 4!)

And to work out their salvation, they needed to learn to work together.

“Do everything without complaining or arguing...”

Now, just think for a second, what would happen if we as a whole church suddenly obeyed this command perfectly?

We would stand out!  Wouldn’t we?  We live in a culture of dissatisfaction. A consumer culture that says if you don’t like it, then you deserve something better–lodge a complaint (grumble away–you deserve it!) and get what you want.

We live in a fractured world–a Balkanized world.  If I say for example, “the electoral map” or “red states and blue states” then you get images of a fractured, arguing, splintered group of people.

Thankful, unified people will STAND OUT in our world. And that’s just what Paul says will happen (v.15). 

“[Do everything without complaining or arguing,] so that you may become blameless and pure [Christ-like], children of God [with the Family Resemblance] without fault [blameless] in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.”

Look up in the sky on a clear night. What do you see?  You see contrast.  There are these little points of light that illumine the darkness and stand out.

There should be a contrast between us and the world.

Do you and I look different from the world? 

I don’t mean do we dress differently (though chaste and modest dress would stand out in the way that I’m talking about). 

I mean, do you act differently?  Not just in what you DON’T DO, but in HOW YOU DO WHAT YOU DO.

Is your life characterized by complaining and arguing?  Or blamelessness and purity?

Do you blend in?

Of course, we don’t want to be obnoxious and be known for being different in ways that God has not called us to.  But we don’t want to look like the universe!  We want to STAND OUT.

Where do you need to change in 2011?  I’ll bet that a starting point for you is in complaining/grumbling/murmuring and arguing.

Kids?  Teens? Husbands?  Wives?  Single Folks?

It sure is for me.

Some days, if I didn’t complain, I wouldn’t have anything to say.

And you know what, that’s what I should say on those days.  Nothing.

Wouldn’t it be great if 2011 were the year that I (we?) made great strides in eliminating complaining and arguing and grumbling and murmuring from our lives?

Wouldn’t we stand out?

I once went about 2 weeks without complaining.

I’ve told you this story before, but it’s worth repeating.

In 1993, I traveled with the circus.

Yes, you heard me right. I was a circus performer.

I wasn’t a lion tamer.  I was a juggler.

And this circus I was on, traveled up and down the eastern seaboard and did the same show in a different town every day.  Sometimes, more than once a day.

We had to take down the whole thing and put it up again and travel together in close quarters.

It was fun. But it wasn’t fun to take everything apart and pack it up into a Uhaul and then unpack again and set it up.  Again and again and again.

But I was a growing Christian. I was working out my salvation. And I decided to not complain.  If someone asked me to do something, I would just do it as if Jesus had asked me to do it.

If Jesus asked me to, face to face, I’d do anything, wouldn’t you?

And I decided to not talk about Jesus until someone asked.

It took about 1 week.

The guys took me aside and said, “Okay, what’s up?  What’s different about you?  Why aren’t you like us?  What’s going on?”

I stood out.

Now, I want you to notice something as we transition into point #3.   We stand out in bold contrast to the world, but not as those who look down on the world and strut around proud of how much better we are than they are.

No, we are gospel-oriented people.  We are just beggars telling other beggars where to find bread. 

We look different because we have found bread! But we don’t cluck about it.  We...(v.16)

“hold out the word of life...”

#3.  Living Out the Gospel Means HOLDING OUT THE WORD OF LIFE.  Holding Out the Gospel!

We don’t just stand out, we hand out!

We hand out the gospel.  We are EVANGELICAL. That means that we believe and give away the good news about Jesus Christ.

And that’s what we need to do especially in 2011!

Have you recently held out the gospel to someone who needs it?

How many of us have done something like that?  How many of us have spoken up?  Given someone a tract?  Given someone a book? Invited them to a gospel meeting?  Talked about our testimony?  Talked about the glories of Jesus Christ?

Are we holding out the word of life?

We’re going to as a church in 2011.

Right, we’re planning our Wild Game Dinner to reach out to men in our community.

Are you involved in that?  You don’t have to like Wild Game or even hunting to be involved.

I’ve only been a hunter for a couple of years, but I’ve been involved in the Wild Game Dinner all along, and I love that we can use it to try to hold out the word of life to those who need it most!

And we’ve begun planning our Family Bible Week this year. And we want to maximize it for gospel outreach this year.  The theme is going to be a race car theme  called “DRIVE,” and we’re trying to think of how to make that a great outreach into our community.

And I’d like to see us do something else big as an event the Fall this year.

But the point of gospel outreach is not events.

You don’t need events to reach your community for Christ.

You need people (v.16) “holding out the word of life.”

That’s something that we can all do with our friends, neighbors, co-workers, family members, and even strangers.

Who are you trying to hold the word out to?

We’ve got to get bold in 2011.

Living out the Gospel means Holding Out the Gospel to those who need it most–unbelievers.

Not that they will always like it!  In fact, many times they will not.  If you shine your light, little star, much of the darkness will try to overcome it.

And that’s why living out the gospel means (#4) POURING OUT OUR LIVES as  a joyful sacrifice.

Paul asks the Philippians to work out their salvation, to stand out in a crooked and depraved generation, and to hold out the word of life to that same crooked and depraved generation.  And he does it for a reason–so that he will have fruit to glory in on the day of Christ.  V.16
“[Live out the gospel] in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing [That my ministry among you was not fruitless.]  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.”

Paul is drawing on the Old Testament sacrificial system.  The morning and evening offerings that were sacrificed on the altar included a drink offering (often called a libation) that was poured out on top of the sacrificial lamb. 

The drink offering added something meaningful but it was really worth nothing if there was no lamb. 

Paul is saying that if they work out their salvation, and stand out in their generation, and hold out the word of life, and live out the gospel–then their service will be a sweet sacrifice to God and his service of ministry to them will be a drink offering poured out on top–a meaningful–“worth it” kind of sacrifice.

Worth it!  Even if Paul dies. 

Paul is in prison and according to chapter 1, he think he might die soon.

And even if Paul pours out his life for the defense and confirmation of the gospel that the Philippians are called to believe–it’s worth it!

And it’s worth rejoicing in.  Together.  V.17 “I am glad [even if I die!] and rejoice with all of you [that you are living out the Gospel!].  And [V.18], “So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.” Because it’s worth it!
The Gospel is worth pouring out your life as a sacrifice!

Do you believe that?

What would you die for?

Your spouse, if you have one?  Your kids, if you have them?  Your best friend?  Your country?

Would you die for the gospel?

Whatever is worth dying for is worth living for.  Each and every day.

The Gospel is worth pouring out your life as a sacrifice!

The Gospel is worth pouring out your life as a sacrifice!

And that’s what I believe God is calling Lanse Free Church to do in 2011.

To pour our lives for the gospel.

Our service becoming worship that leads to joy.

We have a saying around here: The Main Thing is to keep the Main Thing the Main Thing.  And the Main Thing is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

It’s worth dying for.
It’s worth living for.
It’s worth pouring out lives for as a joyful sacrifice.