Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Don't Be a Grumbler

Part 6 of To Live Is Christ, a series through Philippians

You can listen to this sermon here.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing (v. 14). 

Grumbling and Arguing 

How many times have you grumbled and argued already today?

Some people act as if they think they have the spiritual gift of complaining. Mark Twain once said, “Don’t complain and talk about your problems—80 percent of people don’t care; the other 20 percent will think you deserve them.”

Christians must not be known as grumblers and arguers. 

Paul tells the church at Philippi, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing” (v. 14). Grumbling and arguing destroys church unity. It is not behavior “worthy of the gospel of Christ” (1:27) and is contrary to the mindset of Christ (2:5-8).

Working Out Our Salvation 

Everyone knows that Thursday was Halloween. Fewer people are aware that October 31 was also Reformation Day, a celebration of the Protestant Reformation. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther made public his Ninety-Five Theses—ninety-five complaints against some of the practices of the Catholic church. (Though Paul writes, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing,” there are legitimate complaints. The truth should not be sacrificed for the sake of unity.) These theses were Luther’s attempt to bring changes to the Catholic church. (At the time, Luther was a Catholic priest.) This event is seen by many as the catalyst for the Reformation.

Three of the slogans of the Reformation were “by grace alone” (solo gratia), “by faith alone” (solo fide), and “Christ alone” (solus Christus). If you put these three slogans together, you get the Reformers view on how salvation (more specifically, justification) is received: by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
But doesn’t v. 12 say that we must work for our salvation: “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”? No, or else Paul would be contradicting his own theology. In Romans 4:5, he clearly writes, “To the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.” Simply put, working out our salvation means showing evidence of our salvation by our works (“obeyed,” v. 12).

Verse 13 says, “It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Not only does God work in us to bring about obedience (“work,” v. 13), but God even gives us the desire (“will,” v. 13) to obey (“obeyed, v. 12). This is “the obedience of faith” (Rom. 1:5).

Ridding ourselves of grumbling and complaining is one way we can work out our salvation (v. 12). We demonstrate God’s working in our lives by our obedience in this area of our lives.

Unity Is Important

Why should we not grumble and argue?

1. Grumbling and arguing grieves our God. 

Paul’s desire for the Philippians is that they “may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation” (v. 15a). He is probably thinking of the Israelites in the wilderness. They constantly “grumbled against Moses” (Ex. 15:24; 16:2; 17:3) and were described as “a crooked and twisted generation” (Deut. 32:5).

The Israelites complained even though God had miraculously delivered them out of Egypt (the ten plagues, the crossing of the Red Sea). They said they would rather go back to being slaves in Egypt than die in the desert. Imagine how God must have felt. He said to Moses, “How long shall this wicked congregation grumble against me? I have heard the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against me” (Num. 14:26). Because of their grumbling, that generation never reached the promised land.

Paul is saying, “Don’t be like that generation the Israelites in the wilderness.” But, sadly, many times we are. Even though God has graciously saved us through the death of Christ (v. 8), we grumble and argue among ourselves. Stop and think how that must sadden God. 

2. Grumbling and arguing extinguishes our light. 

Christians are to “shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life” (vv. 15b-16a; cf. Dan. 12:3). Being “lights” means being witnesses of the truth of the gospel (through words and actions). Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16).

There is a connection between the unity of a church and the effectiveness of its witness. Jesus prayed, “[I ask] that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21).

Grateful for the Gospel 

Have you ever, before eating a meal, thanked God for your food and then, after praying, started to complain about the food? (“The potatoes are cold! The chicken is overcooked!”)

A complaining spirit reveals an ungrateful heart. (Are you really thankful for the food that you’re complaining about?) But if we have been saved by the gospel, we should be grateful people! Christians should not be known as grumblers and arguers.

Do you want to grieve your God? No. None of us want to sadden the one who saved us by his grace.

Do you want to extinguish your witness? No. None of us want to bring dishonor to the name of the one who died for us.

Don’t be a grumbler.

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