Do All Things Without Grumbling (text)
Passage: Philippians 2:12–2:18
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2:12-18 ESV)
I had a memory of years ago when I was, about 17 years old, so it was a while ago, and I don't remember, I don't know how many of you remember, the evangelistic campaign that went out in the 70's called, "I Found It". Raise your hand if you remember that, your dating yourself, bigtime, but its O.K., I'm with you. I found a campaign, and I got a phone call from a guy, from the City who asked if I would be the "I Found It" Eastern Long Island regional director. I don't know how he got my name, but he did, and he asked if I would be the director for the youth aspect of "I Found It." So, really with a sense of honor and amazement I accepted it, and he thanked me.
A week or so later he called me and he said "We're having our first meeting in New York City to talk about the strategies we're gonna do; can you make it," and I said "No, I can't make it. I have no transportation, I can't get into the City." So he said "Well O.K., but it'd be really good if you could make these meetings. You really need to make these meetings."
So he called me a week later with another meeting, and once again I couldn't make it and this happened many, many different times. This poor guy graciously tried everything he could to get me to a meeting. To get me involved. To get me actually to do something. In the end I never attended a meeting. I never made a phone call for them. I never did a thing as the Eastern Long Island Regional Director of "I Fouund It". I didn't do a thing, except take this guys phone calls, and even that I began to dread after a while. I think he gave up on me after a while. He finally stopped calling.
In the end, I accepted the title of being the "I Found It" youth director, but I never answered the call to the responsibilities that were attached to that title.
Paul doesn't leave the Philipian church that option. He doesn't leave Christians that option. The Christian life and genuine faith in Christ leads us to corresponding action. To be a Christian is a call to do something.
In Philipians 1:27, Paul begins an exertation, to the Philipian church, to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and he is continuining that exertation through the passages we have read this morning. It is a call to action. It is a call to do something. It is a call to live in a certain way. Not to become Christians, but because we are Christians. Not to replace faith but in response to faith. We are to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel, and he begins in this passage, in this section, with an imperative. That it might at first seem contradictory to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." (Philipians 2:12)
If you have been in this church for any length of time at all you know our commitment to the faith in Jesus Christ, and to the Gospel that says: God has saved us and 100% of the work is His, not ours. That is the free gift of God through Jesus Christ and faith in Him that saves us. Is Paul contradicting that? Are we to work at our salvation after all? Is it something that we are to do? To work out our salvation. Is that what Paul is calling us to? Well, the answer is for us to rememeber the difference between our justification and our sanctification.
We don't work at our salvation as if we are contributing to our salvation. We're working to be saved. As Aaron Osbourne reminded us a few weeks ago: Justification is 100% God's work. He did it all by the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. As we trust in that work; as we trust in Christ, we are forgiven. We are cleansed; and more than that we are made righteous, with the righteousness of Christ. What do we bring to the table? Our sin. He is the One who totally justifies us. Totally saves us. We have nothing to do with it. We have nothing to do with it. We don't work anything into our justification. Nor do we grow in our justification. You are as justified on the first moment you believe, as you draw your last dying breath as a mature Christian. Your never get more justified. 100% justified. 100% God's work.
But sanctification is a very different story. When Paul says walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel, it is something we need to work at. And when Paul says "work out you salvation" the word in the Greek actually means to "carry out". Carry out your salvation. You are saved through faith in Christ, now this is how a saved person lives. Live this way. Carry out the salvation that you have received. When it comes to our sanctification we have an active part to play. We cannot think that God will just do this in me. We need to know that we have a role to play, and, in fact, Paul says "work it out" play that role with reverance and awe, or fear and trembling. There's good news because he goes on to say "For it is God who works in you both to will and to work, for His good pleasure." (Philipians 2:13)
All intentional he keeps all attention in this verse. Is God sovereign? Or are we responsible? Is God sovereign? Or are we responsible? for our sanctification. Many people can argue that either God is sovereign, or we are responsible. Paul says both and; both God is sovereign, and we are responsible. Work out your own salvation for good news. It is God who works in you both to will. It is God who works as we work. If you wait, if I wait for God to work in us, you'll be waiting and missing what God wants to do.
When it comes to our sanctification we must work, or it won't get done. God isn't going to do it in you. He is going to empower you to do it, as you take the steps. As you work out he will be working in you. To both will, that is the desire to do it, and to work to actually carry out his will in our lives. That's the Good News. That is the Good News. It keeps us from passivity, but it also lets us know that its not on our shoulders. It is God who is at work. The grace of God in us and Paul ends this sentence by saying "as he works in us both to will and to work for his good pleasure." The work that God does in our lives, brothers and sisters, the work that God is doing in your lives is for his good pleasure, and thats good news because God is good. And because God is good, His good pleasure is your best. What is good for you, what is best for you, brings HIm great pleasure. So because he is good, because he is good, what brings him pleasure is good for us. He delights to see us blessed.
The call to be a christian is a call to trust, and to faith in Christ, for our eternal life and salvation. And genuine faith in Christ then answers the call, It does not ignore the call, it does not do what I did to this poor guy at "I Found It" just "Thanks but no thanks I just want the title. Can't do anything." Genuine faith answers the call to action to do what God has called us to do. To work out our salvation. To live in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ. Now there are countless ways that sanctification needs to work in our lives, and is worked out in the Christians life, but Paul zeros in on one specific way in the Philipian church.
Look with me verse fourteen "Do all things without grumbling or questioning," (Philipians 2:14) The one area he zeros in on. Out of all the areas he could have zeroed in on, is grumbling. Complaining. Questioning which is actually disputing or arguing. Paul addresses the Philipian church right where he knows they need to be addressed, and he addresses them with a pastoral love and a pastoral care. "My beloved...". He knows where they're vulnerable. We looked last week at some of the tensions that were occuring, some of the things that were happening. He know where they're vulnerable and this is what he brings to them out of love and concern "do all things without grumbling or questioning." He doesn't even...he sets the bar high. I mean, it would make more sense to us if he said "Try to do less grumbling and complaining," or even "Try to do most things with out grumbling or complaining." He says "do all things." ALL THINGS! And in the greek you know what that word all things means. It means, all things, without grumbling or questioning.
There is to be a joyful absense of complaining in the Church of Jesus Christ. A joyful absense. Now that is a big deal because we live in a culture of complaining. Have you noticed that? I'm sick of it. I am sure complainin has always been there, but we have perfected it. We've got complaining statements that are meant to convey. Ya know: "same old, same old." How many have used that? Don't raise your hand. I am sure I've used it "same stuff, different day," ya know. "Take my mother-in-law, Please!" Moments like that, "Take this job," and on and on it goes; these statements to convey. And we all nod our heads knowingly.
I remember seeing a guy in a 7-eleven once, a believer and I said "Hey how's it going?" or what did I say? I said "Hey what are you up to," and he said "I'm up to here." We just relate to complaining. We love to complain.
Paul Tripp once asked a Christian leader from India "Sir, what is your opinion of Americans?" and he said, Indians can be very polite and he said, "Do you want my honest opinion?" He said, "Yes." He said, "Well, you have no idea how much you have and yet you always complain." Convicting.
Complaining can be so common its not a big deal to us. I mean, we can complain after the service. We can stand out in the lobby and just little ways, we drop complaints "Well, Its a beautiful day isn't it." "Ya, but I hear its supposed to get cold later on. Its gonna to rain tommorow." We can complain about the weather, our health, our job, the service we recieved in a resturant the other day, our spouse. Our children, our school, our church, our government. Anything is fair game for complaining about, and I don't think that we are aware of how prevalent it is in our lives; or how serious it is to God.
Complaining is socially acceptable into church. It is considered a sin that we, ya know, "ya we know its a sin, but come on. Its like not stealing, its not like lying, its not like killing, its not like adultery." Its a sin that we can, ya know, do without much shock at a Christian party or get-together, however, what I want us to see, what I believe God wants us to see is how seriously God takes it, and it is serious the way Paul lays it out.
There is something in this passage that is, unusual to this passage. We might miss it if we just read it, and didn't realize this. But there is somthing hidden in this passage that would have been obvious to the first hearers and is completely unique to Paul. He never does anywhere else what he does in this passage, and yet we can miss it. But it is such an important impact to our understanding of what he is saying when he calls us to do all things with out grumbling and disputing, and it is this: verses 14-16 are intentionally and precisely, word for word, taken from the Old Testament, and from the Children of Israel's history. And the result is a statement of impact of what this means to God. What the devastating effects of grumbling are, and what the shining testimony of puting it away, and having a joyful absense of it is, for the church, in this darkened world. Let's begin with verse 14 "Do all things without grumbling or questioning..."
What was it about the Israelites that eventually disqualified them from inheriting the land, and became judged by God? Over and over again we see the answer in Exodus, and I want you to turn with me to the book of Exodus. We're going to start with chapter fifteen. God delivers the Israelites from Egypt, from slavery, by sending plagues, by parting the Red Sea, by allowing them to pass on dry land, and closing the sea up around the Egytptians. So all this miraculous work to free them and look what happens, immidiatley after the parting of the Red Sea. Chapter fifteen, Exodus 15, beginning in verse twenty-two. Read with me.
"Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, 'What shall we drink?'" (Exodus 15:22-24) Well, the Lord sweetens the water , miraculously, through him putting a stick into the water, and then shortly after he delivers Israel to a place with twelve springs of water. But look with me at what happens after that in chapter sixteen, verses one through three. Elim is where the springs of water are.
"They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, "Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger." (Exodus 16:1-3)
And the Lord provides for them, food to eat, and quail, and then they move on. And once againg they find themselves in the place of needing water, but instead of remembering God's provision. Instead of remembering God's faithfulness, look with me at chapter seventeen verses one through three.
"All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, "Give us water to drink." And Moses said to them, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?" But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, 'Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?'" (Exodus 17:1-3)
Once again, grumbling against Moses and the Lord, and coming to conclusions. As much as God did for them. As much as God provided for them. As much as God miraculously met them, it never was enough. It never delivered them to a place of faith, and trust in the Lord, but rather, every time a new challenge rose, they grumbled. They complained. They murmured. "We've been brought out here to die! It was better in Egypt! At least we were eatin there! We were slaves, but it was better there." And they murmured and they grumbled.
Grumbling is serious because it is ultimately, always against God. Complaining is serious cause it is always ultimately against God. Complaining says that what God has done, or what God has given isn't enough, or what God has witheld he shouldn't have witheld. Complaining says, "I deserve better! I deserve better than I am getting." "I deserve more good, I deserve less bad than I'm getting." "I deserve a trouble free life folks. I deserve deserve a ClubMed life. I deserve every day to be sunny. I deserve to have a car that never breaks down, traffic that never jams, a peaceful home when I come home from work. I deserve these things. And I don't deserve anything bad that ever happened in my life." That's what Complaining says.
Now, what I want to, in full disclosure, share: I complain. I'm sure it's not a surprise to you: I grumble. I suspect most of you do as well. In fact this week while I was on this message I got not one, but two phone calls, from Janice, within about a half an hour. And two of our kids, who shall remain nameless, were having very difficult days whinning. Complaining. Parents I don't think you can relate to that, but try to imagine that. Whining and Complaining. And so Janice called me, twice, and was fighting not to be complaining herself, but actually she want me to tell you that she actually was complaining on the phone, as she called, complaining about their complaining. And I have to admit that I was tempted. I mean, I am working on the message from the Word of God. Do I not deserve to be able to sit and work on this message without phone calls from my wife and kids about their complaining. Would you guys just read the notes to the message today! I was tempted to complain.
We've all been there. We've all done it. Before we turn the corner on this I want us to recognize, how serious it is, because, while it is good together to recoginze we do share in common, these sins, we don't want to stop there and be comfortable, and think that: Complaining is an acceptable sin. Paul is attaching this to the history, the redemptive history of Israel to show the effect it had on them before God. It saps us of joy. Complaining and grumbling is a substitute response to faith. Instead of faith, instead of saying "Hey! God has brought us this far. He has provided. Now, look at this, we have no water. What an opportunity to trust God!" Grumbling substitutes faith for "Look at what happened! God brought us out here to kill us!"
It drives from our heart thankfulness, gratefulness, and faith, and joy. And it brings us into a mindset; Now we were talking last week about mindsets, ruts. You know the signs that says, "Choose your rut carefully, You are going to be in it for the next two hundred miles." Well here's a rut that Paul's saying "Don't get in this rut." A mindset of complaining, grumbling, arguing, disputing, that mindset, he says, "Do not get in this mindset! Because it will take you in the wrong direction."
Finally God judges Israel. He judges Israel for their grumbling, their lack of faith, their disobidience, their unbelief. And listen through Moses, some of the last words Moses will pronounce over the people of Israel, found in Deuteronomy 32:5, you don't have to turn their unless you want to, but let me read it. This is what Moses said by the Spirit of God, as God's judgement over these complaining, grumbling people. "They are no longer his children because they are blemished; because they are a crooked and twisted generation." That is the pronouncement over the people Israel, who never entered the land, because of their constant grumbling, and lack of faith, and trust in God. "They are no longer his children because they are blemished; because they are a crooked and twisted generation." It is a tragic pronouncement of God's judgement on them, but does it sound familiar to you? Does it sound familiar?
It should, because it is the same wording that God uses in verse fifteen, with one very important difference. Paul transforms this judgement into a blessing, read it again with me "That you may be blameless," how by doing all things without grumbling or questioning, "Thatyou may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation..." He has shifted it from a judgement over Israel, "You are no longer my children because of the blemishes. You are a crooked and twisted generation." No! Now he says "Now you are without blemish, children of God, IN a twisted and crooked generation."