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Shine For You: Radiating Life Through Service No one is sure who the first person was that thought it would be spiritual to withdraw from the world, but the idea entered the Christian church early on and has profound detrimental effects ever since.

In the early days of the Church a Syrian monk name Simon Stylites sat on the top of a pillar fifty feet high to avoid contact with the world. The Egyptian hermit Anthony lived most of his life in the desert trying to avoid contact with the world. At the time these men and many others were thought to be deeply spiritual. The fact is that the Bible never supported this flawed thinking then and it certainly doesn’t support it now.

One of our former presidents talked about 1000 points of light. He was talking about the importance of volunteerism, and trying to encourage people to volunteer in areas of meaningful service to humanity. In so doing, they would shine as points of light.

I like the idea of points of light. It is the idea that what we do matters. Our contribution in life makes a difference–– it makes a difference to us, and it makes a difference to others. And this is what Paul was talking about in the scripture we are reading today.  He is not talking about volunteerism, but he is talking about our lives making a difference. He refers to the fact that we are to "shine like bright stars." Our lives are to make a difference. Our lives are to count.

All of us like to think that our life counts. We want our trip through this earthly existence to matter. Sometimes we don’t really know whether our lives really matter like we want them to matter. But all us want to matter. In fact, one of the greatest pursuits in our society today is the search for meaning. It is a search for significance. Everyone wants to believe that he or she has a real purpose that can be fulfilled.

And after people have discovered that fulfillment does not come in the acquisition of material possessions, position, status, and money, many of them discover that one area that brings fulfillment is when they reach out and help another person.

Touching the life of someone else in a positive way, a helpful way, provides incredible satisfaction. And you don’t have to be a Christian to understand this. People everywhere are coming to understand the value of relationships–– of having wholesome and healthy interaction with other people.

I commend this generation of college age kids who this summer will volunteer in record numbers in service around the world. In fact if it weren’t for senior citizens going back to work to offset the recession or financial challenges happening there would be a serious lack of summer help this year.

For the next few minutes I want to examine the writings of Paul the apostle. He was writing to a church and encouraging them to live out their faith in the arena of life. He wanted them to shine like lights and he wanted them to live holy lives minus the negative and sour disposition that sometimes overtakes even the best of us. Hear the word of God as found in Philippians 2:12-18

12 Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. 13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

 14 Do everything without complaining and arguing, 15 so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. 16 Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. 17 But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God,[e] just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. 18 Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy.  

Philippians 2:12-18 NLT


So here then is a biblical rationale on how we are to live out our lives. It is compassion and a desire to be like Christ that will drive and motivate us in our pursuit of this kind of Christ-following. Let’s look at this closer.

1. Something worth pursuing

“Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. 13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”  Philippians 12c-13


I love the wording of these verses. We are not working for our salvation but if Christ has transformed us there will be some results that are evident in our lives. The Christian life is one that should be ever changing and evolving. We are to be in relationship with Christ and our calling will be shaped by our circumstances. Where we live, who we interact with, who we work around or go to school with, where we shop; all of these things effect how we live out our faith.

The fact is we are to live out our faith. Paul said to do it by obeying God with deep reverence and fear. He encouraged them to tap into the stream of God promised to work in us. He said God would give us the desire and the power to do what please Him. This is foundational truth that you can build your life on.

8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:8-10

There are plans that God has for you to do with your time on this earth. Have you discovered them and are you living them out with your life? Pursue God and His ways with all your heart. Pursue a lifestyle that lives out your faith and your salvation.

2. A universal purpose

“Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights”   Philippians 2:15b

This is the classic call of God that has never changed. We have always been called to the duel task of holiness and helping others. Having one without the other is like a one winged bird.

Holiness and Helping others

If you just live a “clean innocent life as children of God,” but never raise a hand to help someone else in this world discover the power of Christ in their life your holiness is useless. If on the other hand you just help people but don’t do it with the power of God helping you to live for Him you are just another social agent or agency.
 
Historically the church has always struggled with this dichotomy. The tendency has always been to lean in one direction or the other with an emphasis that excludes the other.

It is the holiness of God working in the Christ follower that allows him or her to extend not just a helping hand of compassion but a light of hope and the transforming power of Jesus Christ.

“For though your hearts were once full of darkness, now you are full of light from the Lord, and your behavior should show it! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.”  Ephesians 5:8-9 NLT

We do not arrive at this overnight. It is not an instantaneous transformation. But neither is it something that never happens. Far too many Christians are stuck in spiritual kindergarten when they should be in graduate school. It is true that we are not perfect and never will be in this earthly existence, but our standard is not imperfection! God expects us to grow in our commitment to him, to grow in our obedience, to grow in our service, and to grow in our spiritual maturity. We need to plan to grow and do those things that foster that growth.

We are called to hunger for righteousness or justice in the same teaching that Christ calls us to be merciful.

3. A global place


“. . .in a world full of crooked and perverse people.”

Paul clearly laid out in nine words an accurate description of the world we are to be shining Christ light in.

Our world is full of crookedness and perverseness. It is a continual tension that we have to live with. We are to be living in this world yet not allowing the perverseness of the day to become a part of us and our lives.

Locally: Read the paper with any consistency and you will see that we are not running short of local crookedness or perverseness.

Nationally: Again just watch the news and pay attention to what the media puts its emphasis on and if you are a genuine Christfollower you will have a profound sense of deep sadness.

The world is flat after all: Tom Friedman may have coined the phrase but the fact is that Paul nailed it with his phrase first. The Bible can be read anywhere on this planet and still be relevant. Evil is a reality and the role of the church is not to fight it with weapons of this world but with a consistent, proactive and urgent sense of compassion and love.

We are to take the light of Jesus Christ with us wherever we go and shine into the darkness of our society. Historically we know that sometimes it will be received and sometimes you will lose your life for doing that.

Our calling is global. We are to go to the whole world with the message of Christ lived out in our lives.

4. Are you on this path?

“Hold firmly to the word of life. . .” Philippians 2:16a

14 Do everything without complaining and arguing, 15 so that no one can criticize you. Philippians 2:14a


What an incredible command! Is he serious? Does he really expect us to do everything without complaining or arguing–– everything? Isn’t this is really too much to ask. As a matter of fact, I think I am going to complain about it!

This is really the point. When we complain, we’re showing a lack of submission to God. We are essentially saying, "God, you don’t really know how to run my life. I’m not sure I trust you to do what is right." When we complain, we reveal a lack of trust.

There are numerous illustrations to this found in the Old Testament. The prime example is the people of Israel, when they were delivered from Egypt. God brought them out of bondage in Egypt in order to bring them into the land of promise. In order to do that they had to march through the wilderness. That became a problem. They did not want to be in the wilderness, and they began to complain and complain and complain. The object of their complaint was usually Moses. But they were really complaining about God and the leadership he was providing through Moses.

In the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard you complaining about him. Why are you complaining about us?" Moses also said, "The Lord will give you meat to eat in the evening and all the food you want in the morning. The Lord has heard you complaining about him. Who are we? You’re not complaining about us but about the Lord." (Exodus 16:7-8 GW)

We are like these Israelites. We have been delivered from the dominion of darkness and are on our way to heaven. For now, however, we are living in this world. We are not yet to our land of promise. Are we willing to trust God to guide us until we arrive? Or will we, like the children of Israel, complain? When we do, we are really complaining about the Lord.

When we complain, we reveal a lack of trust, and when we argue, we reveal a rebellious spirit. We need a checkup from the neck up, and maybe a little heart surgery as well. In other words, we need to make sure that our attitude is right before God if we are to shine before this watching world. What do we want the world to see? Do we want them to see dissatisfied Christians, refusing to trust God? If we are complainers, that is what they will see. Our attitude should reveal faith. It should reveal hope. It should reveal love. This doesn’t mean we never get discouraged or we try to mask our personal pain and live on some holier than thou pedestal. It just means that we stay incredibly focused on our relationship with Christ and live out our lives in His way.

When our attitude is right, we are then in a position to share the good news of Christ with people. This is a path we must follow in terms of our action. You see, you shine "as you hold out the word of life" for people to receive.

5. Poured out

“But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God. . .” Philippians 2:17a

Paul had lived the life of compassion and service to others. He was aware that he could be killed at any moment for the work and ministry he was doing but he put it in perspective here.

When we live our lives as God intended on this earth we pour ourselves out in service to and for others.

I don’t know of any church that is as positioned as we are to make a difference in our communities. There are two communities I want to draw your attention to. One is where you live out your life. Some of you have caught a vision for this and you have intentionally been building bridges of love and connection to your neighbors. That is exactly what Paul had in mind when he wrote this letter to the church at Philippi.

I want to challenge the rest of you today. Are you living out your faith in your neighborhood? How about in your workplace arena? Do you ever think about the importance of your place at that desk, or factory line, or truck seat, or in your interactions with other people?

But there is another community we need to also operate in. We have three locations as a church. Three physical buildings in two distinct neighborhoods. They mean nothing if those of us who huddle together inside of them don’t find intentional ways of loving and serving those around and outside these buildings. Do you know that there are some people who have intentionally moved into areas around our church buildings so that they can be a part of the neighborhood?

The denomination we belong to is turning 100 in a few months. Let me read you a description from our denominational web page of what it was like in the early days.

“Orphanages in North America and India, homes for unwed mothers, rescue missions for alcoholics--these were visible expressions of inward holiness. “We want places so plain that every board will say welcome to the poorest,” Bresee wrote from Los Angeles, while half a continent away tears coursed down Mary Lee Cagle’s cheeks as she preached to the prisoners—Black and White alike—in an Arkansas prison. The early Nazarenes listened with their hearts to, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor” (Luke 4:18). An identification with the Lord’s own mission had led Wesley to England’s prisons, slums, and mining communities. Now it was the founder’s concern. Holiness builds a church with a heart for the poor and broken!”

In the last couple of weeks, 90 church leaders released a second Evangelical Manifesto and I read with interest these words:

“What we are about is captured not only in books or declarations, but in our care for the poor, the homeless, and the orphaned; our outreach to those in prison; our compassion for the hungry and the victims of disaster; and our fight for justice for those oppressed by such evils as slavery and human trafficking.

We urge those in positions of power and authority to appreciate that we seek welfare of the communities, cities, and countries in which we live, yet our first allegiance is always to a higher loyalty and to standards that call all other standards into question, commitment that has been a secret of the Christian contributions to civilization as its passion for reforms. We urge those who share our dedication to the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed to join with us in working to bring care, peace, justice, and freedom to millions of our fellow-humans who are now ignored, oppressed, enslaved, or treated human waste and wasted humans by the established orders in the global world.”

Finding his newly-appointed pastor standing at his study window in the church weeping as he looked over the inner city’s tragic conditions, a layman sought to console him: "Don’t worry. After you’ve been here a while, you’ll get used to it." Responded the minister, "Yes, I know. That’s why I am crying."

In 1958, 35 year old Englishwoman Anita Goulden went on holiday to Peru to visit her brother. Anita was a widowed, single mother who owned two haberdasheries in Manchester, England. She was about to go home by way of the United States when she saw an unbelievable sight--children with tuberculosis and meningitis lying neglected and abandoned in the street in pools of their own blood. "In my wildest dream, I had never thought of human beings in such shocking conditions," her diary recorded. "The appalling poverty; the indifference of those around. I can only liken it to visiting a store and finding all the goods priced wrongly. Precious goods worthless. Worthless goods precious." So Anita stayed to help--for the next 44 years she stayed, only returning home one time before her death in 2002, and that trip was to buy medicine. Anita started traveling by donkey to the nearby villages surrounding Piura, Peru to find more unwanted children. Her first stop in these towns was always the pigsty, the common place for leaving physically and mentally handicapped babies with the excuse that they were of no use to their families and sent as a curse from God. "Anita's unwavering faith in God's capacity to answer her desperate prayers for food, clothing or housing when there was none left for the children, has succeeded in providing permanent care for the most sorely afflicted and has established a good education for 250 of the poorest children from the shanties," states the Anita Goulden Trust newsletter. Anita's Peruvian assistant said of her, "She has a direct line to God," and "Thank God for the British." Anita herself merely said, "Thank God there is a God."

I ask you today to be God in your neighborhood. Be a light in your world. Be intentional about the hours, days, months or years you have left on this planet. There is a world right outside of these walls that desperately needs the church to be Christ to them. Will you do that? Will you do more than just take the free ticket to heaven and live out your life on this earth trying to get as much as you can for yourself?

“Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. 13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”  Philippians 12c-13

2008/05/18