************ Sermon on Philippians 2:15-16a ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 27, 2003
"Shine Like Stars"
[Christian Education Sunday]
"Shine like stars." That is the challenge Paul lays before us on this Christian Education Sunday.
"Shine like stars." People, today, want to be stars. We all admire the star of the basketball court or football field or hockey rink; it is no accident that the hockey team from Dallas calls themselves the Dallas Stars – they are playing against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in the hockey playoffs this year and Thursday night their game went into 5 overtime periods. People get all excited about movie stars; at a recent Rotary auction, movie posters autographed by stars like Tom Hanks and Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer were valued at $500; go to Hollywood and you can go on a "Tour of the Stars" – a tour of where all the stars of Hollywood live; or, you can walk down Hollywood Boulevard and see the stars and their names in the sidewalk. Not that long ago I saw an advertisement for the stars on ice who perform with the Ice Capades.
"Shine like stars." Paul, of course, is talking about the stars above, those things that twinkle night after night. He is talking about the heavenly bodies God has set in place since the beginning of time. He is talking about what we see on our bulletin covers. Paul wants us to shine like the top athletes or movie stars.
"Shine like stars." I doubt if Paul would use the same image today. For one thing, we know that not all stars shine – there are black holes, dying stars, that do not let even a speck of light out; for another thing, we know about baby stars that have not really begun to shine and twinkle yet. And, most of us realize that the star of the basketball court or movie screen fails to be a star in many other ways.
"Shine like stars." I am always surprised that Paul uses this image. I say that because in the world Paul grew up in, Israel's pagan neighbors considered the heavenly array, the hosts of heaven, to be astral deities deserving of human worship and adoration. Isaiah speaks to these pagan cultures and, in particular, to the Chaldeans:
(Is 47:13-15) All the counsel you have received has only worn you out! Let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions month by month, let them save you from what is coming upon you. (14) Surely they are like stubble; the fire will burn them up. They cannot even save themselves from the power of the flame. Here are no coals to warm anyone; here is no fire to sit by. (15) That is all they can do for you-- these you have labored with and trafficked with since childhood. Each of them goes on in his error; there is not one that can save you.Isaiah proclaims that God alone is able to influence the course of history and to redeem His people – not the stars or other heavenly bodies.
"Shine like stars." I am always surprised that Paul uses this image. Another reason I say that is because when we read the Old Testament we discover that one of the practices that led to the fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel was the worship of the stars (2 Kings 17:15-16,18). Unfortunately, the Southern Kingdom of Judah was no better (2 Kings 21:3,5).
"Shine like stars." As we will find out, Paul is laying out a mission statement for the church and her members, for the Christian School and its students and staff, and for any church or Kingdom activity. Not only that, but Paul is also laying out the goal or purpose of Christian education – whether it be in the home, the church, or the school: we want our children to shine like stars.
I Work Out Your Salvation
A "Shine like stars." We need to backtrack for a moment so that we understand why Paul is saying this to us.
In verse 12 Paul says something that often is misunderstood. It seems to deny the Reformed doctrine of election and of God's sovereignty over all things and all people and all events. Paul says, "work out your salvation with fear and trembling ..." The Arminians love this text – because it sounds like salvation is up to us, because it sounds like salvation is our decision for God rather than God's decision for us. But, when we read the next verse we realize that Paul is telling us to "work out" what God has "worked in."
(Phil 2:12-13) Therefore, my dear friends ... continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, (13) for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.In other words, Paul is calling us to live out the Christian life God has implanted within our hearts through the Word and Spirit of Christ.
B "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling." One of the ways we are to work out our salvation is to "shine like stars." However, we do Paul's words a grave injustice if we apply them only to individuals. He is speaking to Christians as part of Kingdom activities or organizations – whether it be Tulare/Kings Right to Life, Central Valley Christian School, Bethany Christian Services, Dordt College, Salem Christian Homes, Love In the Name of Christ, The Gideons International, or whatever. But Paul especially is speaking to the church body as a whole. As individuals, as Kingdom organizations, and as a church we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling by shining as stars.
II Shine as Stars – In a Dark World
"Shine like stars." We are to do this, we need to do this, because the sky is dark.
The dark sky I am talking about, says our text, is a "crooked and depraved generation." Paul is talking about his contemporaries with their heathen idol worship, their worship of the body and pleasure and wealth. But Paul could also be talking of the time we live in and the people we live among. The vast majority of people today are part of a crooked and depraved generation. I realize that's a very severe judgment on most of those we live among. But read the newspaper, watch the news – and you see the truth of these words. You see the truth of these words not only in the horrific events that happen – a school shooting in Pennsylvania, the atrocities of Saddam Hussein, the murder of Laci Peterson – but also in the basic immorality all around us. More than 80% of the people I know outside of the church have been divorced and remarried, some of them a couple of times. Abortion and adultery and premarital sex are considered acceptable. A homosexual lifestyle, I was told this past week, is a choice that is each person's business and I should not condemn it. Most of our secular neighbors live for themselves, their pleasures, their desires, their wants. We live in a "crooked and depraved generation."
Now, against this background, against this dark and black sky, Christians and Christian institutions and Christian churches need to shine like stars in the universe. We need to teach our children to let their light shine in the dark alleys and corners of a world that is opposed to Christ. And, our light cannot be hidden or covered either.
Topic: LightWhat happens on the inside shows on the outside. Joyful Christians with the light of God on their faces are needed in the darkness of this world.
Subtopic: Spiritual, Reflected
In one of his booklets, Adrian Rogers tells of some gold prospectors who discovered an exceptionally rich mine. One of them said, "Hey, we've got it made as long as we don't tell anybody else before we stake our claims." So they each vowed to keep the secret.
Because they had to have more tools and provisions, they headed for town. After buying all the supplies they needed, they hurried back to the mine site. But they were not alone. A crowd of people followed them because their discovery was written all over their faces.
III Shine as Stars - Be Like Christ
A "Shine like stars." When we shine like stars do you know who we are imitating, whose example we are following?
If ever there is anyone Who shines like a star, it is Christ. He calls Himself the "bright Morning Star" (Rev 22:16). The church identifies Him as the "Star of David." And, don't forget that His birth was marked by the appearance of a star. He, of all people, lets His light shine in the darkness of the world.
B When we look to the first part of Philippians 2 we see there the Hymn of Christ. Paul celebrates the humiliation of Christ. Christ humbled Himself, He emptied Himself: He did not keep hold of His equality with God, He took the nature of a servant, He was made in human likeness, and He was obedient to death.
Paul introduces this hymn in verse 5 with these words: "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." In other words, like Christ, we need to humble ourselves. Like Christ, we need to have a servant nature. Like Christ, we need obedience – even, if necessary, to death.
When we follow the way of Christ, then we shine like stars. You see, there is a whole world out there of self-centered, self-serving, and boastful people; but when we are humble, serving, and obedient – like Christ – we stand out like stars in a darkened sky.
IV Shine as Stars - Don't Be Like Israel
"Shine like stars." When we shine like stars do you know who we are NOT imitating, whose example we are NOT following?
When we look at verse 14 we are told, "Do everything without complaining or arguing." Paul has Israel in mind when he says this. For, the history of Israel is one sad history of complaining and arguing – especially when they were in the wilderness. Time after time Moses heard complaint after complaint. About the manna, the lack of meat, the water, the lack of melons and leeks and fish. Time after time God proved Himself faithful. Time after time God supplied them out of the riches of His providence. Time after time God protected them from their enemies. But it was never enough. They always wanted more. They were never satisfied.
"Shine like stars ... Do everything without complaining or arguing." I think we realize how different this is from the world. Which leads me to add that too many times there are those in the church who also complain and argue and bellyache and are never satisfied. When we do this, my brothers and sisters, we become part of the dark sky rather than stand out from it like twinkling stars.
Topic: SaintsBelieve me, that is not how we want to be known. And, the light doesn't shine if you are always negative.
Warren P. Schilling says that during his 30 years of military service, he has collected several sets of identification tags. His favorite tags were issued in 1956 noting his blood type, Rh factor, and religion. Following his name and serial number were the words: A NEGATIVE PROTESTANT.
-- Warren P. Schilling, The Christian Reader, Sept./Oct. 1994, p. 66.
V Shine as Stars - Let Your Light Shine
A "Shine like stars." So far we have learned this is part of working out our salvation in a sin-darkened world. It makes us like Christ Who humbled Himself and was obedient to death. It means we are unlike Israel who was infamous for her complaining and arguing.
"Shine like stars." What exactly or specifically does Paul have in mind for us? To shine like stars, says our text, means we are to be blameless, pure, and without fault.
First, we are to be blameless. Do you know what this means? It means that no one can point a finger of criticism at us. It means that we are not hypocrites. It means that we live out the faith and walk the talk.
Second, we are to be pure. Do you know what this means? In the Greek, the word is used for wine that is not diluted; it is also used for metals which contain no weakening alloy. In other words, we do not dilute our faith with beliefs and practices that lie outside the will of God.
Third, we are to be without fault. Do you know what this means? In the midst of a crooked and depraved generation, we walk the straight path, we observe the laws of God, we strive to live as the children of God.
B "Shine like stars." What exactly or specifically does Paul have in mind for us? To shine like stars, says our text, we need to "hold out the word of life." You know what the Psalmist says:
(Ps 119:105) Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.The fact is, there is no twinkle and no light in us apart from the Word of God. We need to hold up the lamp of the Word. We need to let it light not only our path but also the path our secular and pagan neighbor is walking upon.
C "Shine like stars." What exactly or specifically does Paul have in mind for us? I want you to observe that stars always shine, night after night. Unlike the moon, the stars are constant and never failing. That's a perfect description of the Christian life. Day in and day out we are to shine like stars. Day in and day out we are to work out our salvation in a sin-darkened world. Day in and day out we are to be like Christ Who humbled Himself and was obedient to death. Day in and day out we are to be unlike Israel who was infamous for her complaining and arguing. Day in and day out we are to be blameless, pure, and without fault. Day in and day out we are to hold up the Word of life.
"Shine like stars." I said earlier that this a mission statement for the church and her members, for the Christian School and its students and staff, and for any church or Kingdom activity. Not only that, but Paul is also laying out the goal or purpose of Christian education – whether it be in the home, the church, or the school: we want our children to shine like stars.
If the church and her members do not "shine like stars," then the Lord of the church threatens to remove her lampstand (Rev 2:5). If the Christian School or any Kingdom cause does not "shine like stars" then they might as well shut their doors. And, when we do not teach our children – through the church, the school, and the home – to shine like stars, then we have failed miserably.
"Shine like stars." Work out your salvation in a sin-darkened world. Be like Jesus. Be unlike Israel. Be blameless, pure, and without fault. Hold out the word of life. Always let your light shine. That's what Paul says to us this morning.
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