Calvary Road Baptist Church

“CONTRAST”

Philippians 2.15

Although my 240 pound frame may not look like much now, I played football in high school, playing both center on offense and linebacker on defense. We had a pretty good team for a school our size, racking up an undefeated season in league play my senior year. However, as good as we were, we really didn’t have many outstanding athletes on our team who were huge, or overwhelmingly strong, or incredibly fast. However, one guy named Jim comes to mind. Jim was an extraordinary fellow, who was the fastest man on the team, was without doubt the strongest man on the team, and though he was just a shade shorter than I am could dunk a basketball from a flat-footed jump. Jim was the only white guy I have ever heard of until recently who had a better than a 40 inch jump and reach. He had all the tools that any coach could want from a high school football player. He had a real work ethic. He loved to practice and be around the guys. And he was bright enough to understand the nuances of our rather complex and unusual offense. There was only one problem with Jim. He was the kind of guy you could count on until you needed him. If he was playing defense during a game, and the other team was running a sweep, you could count on Jim to stick his face in the dirt a few feet in front of the blocker leading the sweep, so he wouldn’t get hit. If he was running a fly pattern as a wide receiver, and there just happened to be someone on the other team who could keep up with him, you just knew Jim would drop the ball when he heard the pitter patter of feet that meant he would get tackled after catching the ball. Jim never let us down when we expected him to predictably let us down; he would conveniently drop the ball. Like I said, he was the kind of guy you can count on except when you needed him.

We know from the Apostle Paul’s frequent illustrations in his letters that there are some parallels between athletic endeavors and the Christian’s life, and I also believe some parallels exist between a high school football team and a church. More than you might first imagine. In both situations, you find yourself part of a team that must function in unison to experience victory over a determined foe. In both situations, you find yourself teamed up with others of varying skills and experience levels, varying degrees of commitment and awareness of the situation, and varying levels of determination to strive for victory despite the level of pain and disappointment. And in each situation your ability to experience victory is in great measure dependent upon the performance of others on your team. It is no wonder, then, that Paul lays such stress on the need for church members to humble themselves so that God might bless them with unity, the unity that is critical for a church to function as a team bent on the common goal of spiritual victory against a determined foe. Does it also go without saying that the practice schedules and the plays run during the game are called by the coach and not the player’s girl friends, or at the professional level by the player’s wives? Good, then I won’t say it. We cannot run plays called by someone other than the quarterback.

Have you heard the story of the woman who wanted her husband to be spiritual, until there was the threat of him becoming more spiritual than her? Boy, did she put a stop to that. The reverse is also true, by the way. That is why it should never be the spouse who determines the commitment of a Christian to the cause of Christ or involvement in ministry. In Christian marriage there is freedom to serve God according to the dictates of your informed conscience, with spiritual spouses always encouraging their mate’s ministry involvement.

In Philippians 2.12-13, we saw Paul’s directive for obedient Christians to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, with the understanding that it is God Who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure. In other words, friends, believers are responsible to see to their own victory over sin in their Christian lives, and they will as God works in their lives.

In Philippians 2.14, we see that Paul warns against murmurings and disputings when the going gets rough. Remember how the Israelites always seemed to blame Moses and Aaron, and, by implication, God, whenever things weren’t going the way they had anticipated? It absolutely amazes me how quickly unsaved people and spiritual babes will turn on pastors when they get stressed out. They also have a tendency to turn on each other, which is disputing. Thank God the Philippians weren’t that way. Or were they? At any rate, Paul wasn’t taking any chances. He knew, as I hope you folks are beginning to figure out, that you simply have no idea what’s in store next. You don’t know where Satan’s next attack is going to come from, and you don’t know until the battle is raging who is really going to fight with you on the Lord’s side and who is going to turn out to be a traitor and a turncoat.

For those of you who plan on sticking by the stuff, those of you who plan on pulling your load instead of being a load someone else has to pull, those of you who plan on being crew members on this ship instead of passengers, Paul has some definite direction of the positive variety. In Philippians 2.15, we are given, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God, goals to shoot for and strive for in our Christian lives as church members. Before we read that text, while you are turning there, let me warn you of something: What we are about to see written by Paul stands in marked contrast to the way most modern day churches function. Consider whatever evangelical churches you might be familiar with. Consider the Charismatic and Pentecostal churches you may have attended. Reflect on the local so-called Christian television programming you have seen. How much like the world they strive to be. How they strive to imitate, with their production values, with their musical style and performances, and certainly with their appearance.

In the face of that modern day tragic reality, listen to what the Apostle Paul writes about the personal goals and objectives individual believers and congregations of churches should strive for. If you have found Philippians 2.15, stand for the reading of God’s Word: “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.”

Christian church members? Do not murmur or dispute. We saw that in verse 14. Instead, strive to be different. Three main points to consider:

STRIVE TO BE DIFFERENT, FIRST, BY MEANS OF WHAT YOU ARE TO BECOME

“That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke . . . .”

A quick reading of this portion of the verse may give the impression that Christians are to strive to become blameless, are to strive to become harmless, are to strive to become the sons of God, and are to strive to be without rebuke.” A careful examination of this statement, however, coupled with an understanding of what God’s Word teaches elsewhere, shows that such is not what Paul is teaching. Consider this statement under two headings related to the Christian’s life; immediately and eventually.

A person becomes a son of God immediately. John 1.12-13 shows us that a person becomes a son of God when he receives Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. This event is elsewhere in God’s Word described as being born again, being justified, or being saved.[1] The reason I speak of being saved under the heading of immediately is because a person is not saved from his sins gradually. A person is saved from his sins instantaneously. You are either completely lost and on your way to Hell, or you are completely saved and on your way to heaven. There is no in between with regards to being saved from your sins. Salvation from sins is an event, not a process. Therefore, when Paul makes reference to “That ye may be” here, he is not referring to “that ye may be” a son of God, since these Philippians are already saved people. These folks were saved exactly the same way the Philippian jailor had been saved when Paul first planted this church in the city. Like the jailor’s conversion, and like everyone else’s conversion, theirs was immediate upon believing on the Lord Jesus Christ.

That said, the kind of son of God Paul wants these Philippian believers to come to be is something they can only become eventually, which is to say gradually. You see, salvation from the penalty of sin occurs the moment you place your trust in Jesus Christ, the moment you believe to the saving of your soul. However, these three characteristics that Paul would like to see in every believer’s life are individual character traits that only come some time after you are saved through faith in Christ and have grown and matured spiritually. Some Christians progress and grow more rapidly, while others grow more slowly. However, every genuinely saved child of God can, by God’s Own abundant grace, attain unto these three personal goals. First, you are to become blameless, Christian. In other words, God can so richly bless your life that though you will never be sinless, you can live a life that is essentially free of justifiable accusation.[2] Oh, people will always accuse you. As a matter of fact, the more you do for Christ the more people will accuse you. I am living proof that it will be those who love you when times are good who will accuse you of wrongdoing the loudest when times seem for them to be bad.[3] That said, living a life which is essentially free of justifiable accusations of wrongdoing is an attainable goal for each and every Christian, and as the pastor of this church it is reasonable that I expect that from each member. Second, you are to become harmless. This word harmless translates a word that refers to metal that is uncontaminated by impurities.[4] In other words, it is within your reach as a child of God, though you will never be without sin (I cannot stress that too much), to have an inner heart condition that is markedly different than that of an unsaved man, Romans 16.19: “For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.” Finally, you are to become one who is without rebuke. This refers to spots and blemishes.[5] These are things that stick out and are noticeable flaws in your character and behavior. In other words, you new Christians who seem to be continually shooting yourself in the foot when you try to take a stand and when you witness to coworkers and relatives? There can come a day, by God’s grace, when those you deal with do not throw back into your face the faults in your life that they see. Your life can become a beautiful tapestry woven by the God into the strong fabric of consistent and gracious Christianity. Ponder these three things for a moment. Blameless, harmless, and without rebuke. And all of this in the context of taking a stand for Christ in the midst of persecution and opposition. It does not resemble anything like the counterfeit Christianity normally seen on Christian television.

STRIVE TO BE DIFFERENT, NEXT, BY MEANS OF WHERE YOU ARE TO BE

“. . . in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation . . . .”

Two things:

First, the description we see in this phrase. Three words that are used by Paul deserve our attention: First, the word “nation.” This phrase is very similar to one used by Moses in his last address to the nation of Israel.[6] Realizing this, the King James translators used the English word “nation,” even though the Greek word used by Paul is most frequently translated “generation,” and was used by the Lord Jesus Christ and here by Paul to refer to those opposed to the gospel truth of salvation by grace through faith in Christ. Second, the word “crooked.” Ever heard of scoliosis of the spine, where kids have to wear a big brace for several years to straighten their spine? Well, this Greek word translated “crooked” is the Greek word “skolioV.” Here the word is used to refer to being morally crooked instead of spiritually straight. Interesting, is it not, how quick those who have the morals of alley cats are quick to call any Christian who stumbles a hypocrite? Finally, the word “perverse.” This word refers to something which is twisted to such a degree that it is distorted.[7] We live in such a world that right is thought to be wrong and wrong is thought to be right. Fornication is no longer considered to be wrong, and coupled couples describe how long they have “been with” their partner in sin, with few references to “married to.” Child molesters are no longer thought to be wicked and vicious predators who will sacrifice the futures of helpless children on the altar of personal pleasure and gratification, but as victims who are sick and who are to be pitied and felt sorry for. God help us if we do not acknowledge sin to be sin, otherwise why would a Savior of sinners be needed by anyone?

As to the location we see mentioned in this phrase. Paul writes, “in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, . . .” Beloved, we are right square in the middle of it, just like the Philippians were, for Paul does not describe a geographical but a spiritual location. We are surrounded. However, do you see anything about retiring to the country here? Do you see anything about moving to less sinful territory here? No mention of relocating to Kansas. No mention of Hesperia, or Lancaster, or the Pacific Northwest, or the Deep South’s Bible Belt. Paul wanted those Christians to become what they could be for Christ right in the middle of the hot spot, right in the middle of the crooked and perverse generation. What is a good application of that sentiment to you and me? You and I are supposed to be soldiers of the cross, advancing, not retreating. Gaining spiritual victories where we are, rather than looking for some easy place under a shade tree. That is part of what is wrong with Christianity these days. Every man looking out only for himself and thinking nothing of the cause of Christ, nothing of our Christianity legacy, nothing of the nation we leave behind for our children if we run to the country and stick our heads in the sand like scared ostriches. Let’s be different, people. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”[8]

STRIVE TO BE DIFFERENT, FINALLY, BY MEANS OF WHAT YOU ARE TO DO

The verse concludes, “among whom ye shine as lights in the world.”

Consider the metaphor Paul uses. Just like the Lord Jesus told His apostles, “Ye are the light of the world,” so Paul recognized that church members, like the Philippians, like you members of Calvary Road Baptist Church, are lights in a dark place.[9] Without you there is no light. If you don’t stand apart, if you don’t dare to be different, if you don’t stick out amidst the lost of this world, what hope have they? What will they do if you hide your light under a bushel by intentionally blending in with the unsaved of this world, looking like they look, talking like they talk (or not talking at all), and staying home like they stay home? The answer is that they will do nothing, and will go to Hell.

To conclude, consider the message, which is obviously implied rather than stated. You and I both know that the Lord Jesus, and the Apostle Paul, used the concept of light to represent the gospel message. My friends, it’s all about getting the gospel to lost people.

You are saved by trusting Jesus Christ. It’s an event that occurs immediately, instantaneously, when faith is exercised. However, Christian growth and maturing occurs gradually, with the goals Paul has set for us being achieved eventually, by each of us who are genuinely converted. You are to become blameless, harmless, and without rebuke. The question to ask is where are you to become this? Right smack in the middle of a crooked and perverse nation, which should not surprise us, since that’s us before conversion to Jesus Christ. Additionally, that should not surprise us since the reason we are to become blameless and harmless and without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, is so that when our lights shine some of those sin-darkened people will come to the Light and be saved.

Do you see it, folks? You don’t get people saved by becoming as much like them as you can get away with, but by becoming as much unlike them as you can. Not weird or bizarre, but spiritual, mature, and godly. This is where your involvement in our church comes in. We are in the world, but not of the world. We are a counterculture congregation that reaches out to the lost around us and seeks to bring them in by means of the gospel. This is the place to be to be useful to God and of service to Jesus Christ.



[1] John 3.3-8; Romans 5.1; Acts 16.30-31

[2] 1 John 1.8; 1 Thessalonians 2.10

[3] I am reminded of a couple who are completely embittered toward me after having led her mother, her father, two of her daughters, and two of her sisters to Christ. The reason? They have never bothered to tell me. Sadly, many pastors have such experiences.

[4] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 552.

[5] Ibid.

[6] G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, Commentary On The New Testament Use Of The Old Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), page 838.

[7] Ibid.

[8] 1 Corinthians 15.58

[9] Matthew 5.14



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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org