Shine

May 7, 2017
Philippians 2:14-18
Abraham Hong

 

In the beginning, God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light. It was nothing short of a miracle back then. And it remains nothing short of a miracle today. Today, God, who made light shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:1-6). Our Lord is the bright morning star. We have him. We see him. And those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed (Psalm 34:5).

We are the light of the world. We are not better than the world. But we do have the best gospel. And the world needs to know. The world needs to know about their sin before God. The world needs to know about the death of Jesus that pays for sin, the life of Jesus that earns for us heaven, the resurrection of Jesus that gives us hope, and the glory of Jesus that is being prepared for us.

Jesus gave his church these words, which come from Matthew 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Brothers and sisters, we are citizens of an eternal and everlasting kingdom that cannot be shaken or defeated by any other. We are royal ambassadors who represent the king of kings. From time to time, this world takes a good look at us. Maybe a coworker notices your fortitude in the midst of significant pressure. Maybe a schoolmate notices your honor when you sit and talk with the loner. Maybe your neighbor notices how you love and care for your family. Maybe your friend notices how you deal with death. From time to time, this world takes a good look at us. When they do, may you shine.

There comes to mind a simple song that I’m sure many of you know or even sang when you were a little boy or girl.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine.
Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine.
Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

A bushel, by the way, is basically a large wooden basket - seen typically at farms or orchards and filled with fruits or grains.

What is very interesting is what Paul describes here as a way to shine. A way to shine brightly is to do all things without grumbling or disputing. And perhaps the best example of grumbling and disputing is the story of Israel in the wilderness.

In the books of Exodus and Numbers, the nation of Israel was in a desert wilderness traveling to the promised land. God had miraculously and powerfully delivered them from slavery in Egypt. And God was doing all of this to show them a real picture of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

But a very strange and sad thing happened. The Israelites began to grumble and dispute. They grumbled about food. They quarreled about water. They grumbled against God and against Moses. And when their spies came back with a good report about the promised land, they disputed their chances of winning the land with victory. Grumbling and disputing. This was what the Israelites did.

Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall (1 Corinthians 10:6-12).

Brothers and sisters, grumbling and disputing is a serious problem. In Deuteronomy 32:5, God called the grumbling and disputing Israelites a crooked and twisted generation. And God said that they were no longer his children because they were blemished. In today’s Scripture text, Paul has the story of Israel clearly in mind. He uses the same exact words: crooked, twisted, blemished, and children. He is making a note of the seriousness of grumbling and disputing.

And I ask you now to consider the possibility that you struggle with these things. Do we grumble about the weather? About the Chicago Bears? About how things are going at work or school? About people? Do we grumble when we think about government? When we are told to do chores? When we are stuck in traffic? When we are at church? Do we dispute with our bosses? With our children? With our schoolmates? With our spouses? If so, then be warned. Grumbling and disputing is a serious problem. Grumbling and disputing can very easily dim the light or even put it completely out.

What is the remedy to grumbling and disputing? The problem of grumbling and disputing comes down to a simple thing. It all comes down to contentment and joy in Christ.

A grumbler grumbles because he or she is dissatisfied with something in life. A grumbler grumbles when life is perceived to be dark and negative. Sometimes, grumbling is a coping mechanism when things don’t go your way. But nearly all the time, grumbling is a knock against God himself. It is a throwing of shade upon his wisdom and sovereignty. It is a forgetting of his love and salvation in Christ. The grumbler’s motto is “I deserve better.”

A disputer disputes because he or she doesn’t agree with something in life. A disputer disputes when others are perceived to be dumb or ignorant. Sometimes, disputing is a pride issue. But nearly all the time, disputing is a knock against God himself. It is a throwing of shade upon how God puts people together. It is a forgetting of our unity and fellowship in Christ. The disputer’s motto is “I know better.”

Dear brother or sister, if God is convicting you right now to realize that you are a grumbler or a disputer, then I offer you these loving and tender questions. How can you be this way before God when you have eternal life and loving forgiveness and salvation glory and absolute hope in Jesus Christ? If you are going to heaven, then why are you grumbling? Have you lost your mind? Have you forgotten the big picture? Do you really deserve better? Do you really know better? Are you seriously telling me that if Starbucks doesn’t make your drink exactly the way you want it that it’s going to genuinely irritate you or put a damper on your day? Really? Is Jesus not enough for you?

Let us do all things without grumbling or disputing, 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.

This little grumbling and disputing of mine, I’m gonna let it die.
This little grumbling and disputing of mine, I’m gonna let it die.
This little grumbling and disputing of mine, I’m gonna let it die.
Let it die, let it die, let it die.

Hide it under a bushel? Yes!

Brothers and sisters, like Israel of old, we too are traveling through a wilderness. We are looking forward to the promised new heavens and new earth. We are waiting for the return of Christ and the finality of his kingdom. Traveling and waiting are not easy things to do. And it is tempting to grumble before God and dispute with other people along the way.

But know that the day of Christ is near. For Paul, this day was the most important day of his life. And it still is, because Paul, though he has died a long time ago, still lives in his spirit. And to this day, he looks forward to the resurrection of his body and the reuniting of his soul to his body. And he urges us in this letter to hold fast to the word of life and have faith in God’s promises.

Paul could have had an easy and comfortable life. He was a Hebrew of Hebrews, circumcised and blameless. But whatever gain he had, he counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Christ said to Ananias, “I will show [Paul] how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:16). And suffer he did. At the end of today’s Scripture text, Paul describes himself as a drink offering poured out upon the sacrificial offering of the faith of the believers in Philippi. In the Old Testament, wine was poured out alongside the sacrifices of animals. The animal that was offered up was for guilt. But the drink that was offered up was for gratitude. And the drink accompanied the sacrifice. Paul uses this beautiful Old Testament imagery to say that his life - a life that has been poured out and emptied - is a life that joyfully accompanies the faith and the salvation of his brothers and sisters in Christ. In other words, Paul is saying, “My life may seem like a wasted life. But it is not. It is not because you know Jesus. Because of that, because of who you are, everything is worth it. And because of that, because of your faith in Christ, I can die a happy man.”

Paul could have easily grumbled when he was imprisoned and in chains in Rome. But he didn’t. Instead, he yearned for the Philippians with the affection of Christ Jesus. He He held them dear in his heart. He rejoiced that people were preaching the gospel - even if they were preaching out of selfishness or rivalry against him. He chose to remain and continue in suffering for the sake of his church’s progress and joy in the faith. He looked to the interests of others. He was thankful and joyful and full of rejoicing and gladness. His light shone brightly.

May you live in the same manner as Paul. When you face death, may you be able to speak as Paul did, saying, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

And what drove his joyful life was the knowledge that Jesus died joyfully for him. The writer of Hebrews put it best: Jesus, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross (Hebrews 12:1-2). There was a joy set before him as he dripped in blood. There was a joy set before him as he suffered the wrath for your sin. There was a joy set before him as he was humiliated. There was a joy set before him. That joy was his people. That joy was Paul. That joy was you.

In other words, the Lord Jesus Christ did not grumble because of you. The Lord Jesus Christ did not dispute anything because of you. Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth with regards to you. You, a sinner. You, who were once a blameworthy and guilty enemy of God with infinite blemish and a crooked and twisted heart of darkness. But now, you are 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, brothers and sisters, let there be light. And may you shine.

End