What is the Meaning of Philippians 2.14-16

“Stars Are Made to Shine”

Philippians 2:14-16

INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Philippians 2.14-16

Phil. 2. I have a free app on my phone called Starview. It accesses the camera on your phone and you hold it up to the night sky and it tells you the names of the stars you are looking at. It tells you the names of the constellations.

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Even if you hold it up during the day and you can’t see the stars, it knows what constellations and stars that are there behind the clouds. Pretty cool…

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But if you lived in ancient times, unless you were a genius, you wouldn’t be able to tell what stars were behind those clouds. In fact we could imagine that in some ancient civilizations there were people who believed that the stars disappeared in the day and only came out at night.

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These people wouldn’t be able to know if the light from those stars was even there, if the clouds are in the way.

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Paul in verses 14-16 tells true Christians, “You are those stars.” It’s the word “lights” at the end of verse 15.

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Christians are the stars of the universe.

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Philippians 2:14–16 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15 so that you will prove yourselves to be [better is the ESV, “so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God”] above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights [or stars] in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.

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You are stars. But when the clouds of grumbling and disputing overshadow your life, your light grows dimmer and dimmer until there is complete cloud cover and the lost in our age don’t even know that you are a star, a Christian.

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And Paul in verse 16 is concerned that his Christian work among the Philippians might be pointless, for nothing, vain. Remember, the Philippians are persecuted for following Jesus. They are tempted to complain and probably are. They might be thinking, “Is it worth it, is it really worth it to follow Jesus?” Paul wants it to be true that …at the end of verse 16… that his ministry is not pointless or vain, because it could be. He’s concerned their grumbling will lead to their departure from following Jesus.

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When you don’t complain, you are innocent children of God before lost people. You’ll show that by holding fast to the word of life so that your minister can glory that he has a fruitful ministry.

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For the Philippians, they are persecuted and tempted to complain. “Why am I being persecuted? Why would Jesus allows this? Is it worth it? Maybe I’ll just stop following Jesus. Hmph!”

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And if that happens Paul’s Christian labor is in vain, it’s empty, because why? Because they are lost. And the first indication that they are lost is that they were grumbling.

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And so it’s the same for you.

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If your life is one of complaining, you’re not innocent before lost people and that shows that maybe you’re not holding fast to the word of life, which brings into question whether ministry among you is worth it! You’re not shining! There’s no light! How do I know if there really is a star there?

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I’d to preach that “Stars are made to shine.” Grumbling very well may be the one sin most tolerated by Christians and at the same time the most intolerable by God.

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Recall the context … this command “to do all things without grumbling and disputing” is a direct application to the command to work out your salvation in verses 12-13.

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“Working out your salvation” is growing in Christ. We learn from verse 13 God is energizing you to give you the willing and the doing of his good pleasure. Like a constant stream of electricity to a machine, God is providing all of the energy that you need to accomplish his will.

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If you have savingly trusted Christ, there is a hot current of the power of Christ’s resurrection running straight into your heart. He is at work in you, to do His will.

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His will is that you don’t grumble under the circumstances of His will, even if you’re being persecuted! The question becomes, are you resisting all that energy?

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  1. The command: All things done without complaint

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    EXP: He’s providing energy for you not to grumble…Do all things without grumbling and disputing. Not a thing is to be done with grumbling.

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    No complaining! Nothing like, “I can’t believe this is happening” … a kind of talking under your breath, critical spirit, outward complaining, grumbling against others and chaffing under your unpleasant circumstances.

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    No disputing! Disputing takes it to the next level. Now we’re debating and contentious. Wanting to argue the point…kind of like the disciples in … Mark 9:34 who were discussing with one another which of them was the greatest. They debated, argued, and were contentious.

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    ILL: “Grumbling” … it’s exactly what the children of Israel were doing in the wilderness after they were led out of the land of Egypt. And all of the Old Testament looks back on that event of when God led his people out of Egypt in the Exodus…just like we look back to the work of Jesus at the cross and resurrection, they looked back on that event.

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    You can follow along in these passages if you like … first in Exodus 14…

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    So God leads them out of Egypt with 10 plagues… 10 miraculous signs of God’s deliverance …for them. Pharaoh’s army is chasing the Israelites to the Red Sea. They are terrified and so they grumble…

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    Exodus 14:11 Then they said to Moses, “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt?”

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    Verse 21…God then parts the Red Sea … for them…Exodus 15:23-24…Then they grumble that in the wilderness they don’t have any water…

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    Exodus 15:23–24 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter …So the people… grumbled at Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?”

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    But then God miraculously provides water…for them.

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    Now Exodus 16:2–3 Then it’s in the wilderness of Sin…and

    Exodus 16:2–3 The whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness…. The sons of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the LORD’S hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

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    And the LORD miraculously provides meat and manna… for them.

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    And the whole time they think they are grumbling against Moses and his brother Aaron, but really it’s against the LORD. Exodus 16:6 Moses and Aaron said to the people, “At evening you will know that the LORD has brought you out of the land of Egypt; and in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, for He hears your grumblings against the LORD; and what are we, that you grumble against us? … Your grumblings are not against us but against the LORD.”

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    All grumbling is against God.

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    Chapter 17, no water again. The wilderness is hot, a desert. Exodus 17:2 Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water that we may drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?”

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    All grumbling and complaining is against God.

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    Exodus 17:3 But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses and said, “Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”

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    And Moses strikes the rock at the direction of the Lord and water gushes out. God miraculously provides water … for them.

    And at the end of the 40 year wandering in the desert, it hasn’t improved at all. Numbers 11:1. And the Lord is about to deal with them… Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the LORD; and when the LORD heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.

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    And then the sons of Israel wept again and said “Who will give us me to eat? We remember all the food that we had in Egypt the cucumbers and melons and leaks onions and garlic… all we’ve got is this manna!”

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    And Moses is so burdened over these grumbling people he asks the Lord to kill him in Num. 11:15; he’s done! What a discouraged leader!

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    The LORD then promises to give the people of Israel meat to eat for a whole month until it comes out of their nostrils…why? Because they Num. 11:20 … “they have rejected the LORD” the LORD Himself says. Their grumbling is a rejection of the LORD himself.

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    Verse 31…The Lord brings forth a great wind and it brought quail from the sea and they fall beside the camp, 3 feet high a whole day’s journey radius around the camp. About 400 square miles.

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    And while the meat was still between their teeth before it was chewed the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people and the Lord struck the people with a very severe plague.

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    But then they still grumble!

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    Numbers 16:41 … after God had just punished the people for taking over the office of the priesthood, the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron and said, “you’re the ones who caused the death of the Lord’s people.” The congregation assembles against Moses and Aaron and they all look and behold the cloud of the glory of the Lord is covering the tent of meeting the Lord speaks to Moses saying, “get away from among this congregation that I may consume them instantly.” Then they fall on their faces.

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    Numbers 16:46–49 Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer and put in it fire from the altar, and lay incense on it; then bring it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them, for wrath has gone forth from the LORD, the plague has begun!” …

    47 Then Aaron took it as Moses had spoken, and ran into the midst of the assembly, for behold, the plague had begun among the people. So he put on the incense and made atonement for the people. 48 He took his stand between the dead and the living, so that the plague was checked. 49 But those who died by the plague were 14,700.

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    And Paul says elsewhere in

1 Corinthians 10:8–11 8 Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. 9 Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. 10 Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

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Take heed. God is angry over His people’s grumbling mouths. When there is contention and strife…14,700 die…except by the grace of God, should we not be surprised that doesn’t happen today?

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Why do you grumble? Why do you debate and argue, complain and bicker? You’re resisting God’s providence, unpleasant though it may be. You are resisting God, rebelling against God, testing the Lord, rejecting Him! Those are what those passages said!

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Again, this is you when you complain about your circumstances…Why did you do this or that? Slow wifi, waiting in the drive through, your work, your boss, the weather, Monday morning, tailgating, your children…spouse, siblings, job…friends, your busy-ness, lack of sleep, health problems, lack of money, you name it. And you bicker and complain…

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And so why is grumbling so bad again?

First, grumbling and complaining like this shows you distrust God’s gracious providence. You pray, “O Sovereign Lord, I give myself to you…” but then trouble comes within His sovereignty and you complain and grind, fester underneath…His sovereignty!

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Second, Grumbling is also evil because you’re demanding things that God has not promised. He hasn’t promised that you wouldn’t step in dog right before you get in your truck! Why do you covet such perfect comfort…comfort God hasn’t promised?

You’re demanding things that God has not promised

You are so discontented because you do not have something that God has never promised. You’re coveting…that makes you an idol worshipper, Col. 3:5

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But third, grumbling is also a wicked, wicked sin because it is rebellion. Compare Num. 16:41 with Num. 17:10.

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Numbers 16:41 But on the next day all the congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron, saying, “You are the ones who have caused the death of the LORD’S people.”

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Numbers 17:10 But the LORD said to Moses, “Put back the rod of Aaron before the testimony to be kept as a sign against the rebels, that you may put an end to their grumblings against Me, so that they will not die.”

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Grumblers are rebels. Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs, in his excellent Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment written in the 1600s says, “You who are guilty of this sin of complaining are this day charged by the Lord as being guilty of rebellion against Him. God expects that when you go home, you should humble your souls before Him for this sin.”

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ILL: Burroughs goes on to point out that if your body … if your physical body was of such a condition that every tiny little scratch on your skin makes your skin to fester and be so sore, full of puss… Every tiny little scratch… You would surely say that your body is so sick, corrupt!

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So it is in your spirit if every little trouble and affliction makes you so discontented and full of complaint … Your spirit within you is festering because of some little tiny providential discomfort… You have a sick soul…and you are heading toward all kinds of evil. Complaining and grumbling is a horrible evil that leads to so many other evils … after all that God has provided for you, that you could stoop to that level to complain…a most wretched, rebellious sin.

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Jude 14–16 14 It was about such men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, 15 to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” 16 These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly….

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Harsh things spoken, ungodly sinners … grumblers fault finders…Wickedness deserving that the Lord come with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all

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But for you…if you are a believer … God the whole time has been energizing you to do His will even if it’s during persecution…and His will we know is to be thankful and content.

APP: So everything you do must be without grumbling. If you are grumbler, it shows you have a corrupt heart. Repent of that sin; humble yourself before the Lord of hosts. And I’ll give some counsel on how to fix later in the message.

TRANS: But why no grumbling, in Philippians 2… back to Philippians 2…Why no grumbling?

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  1. The reason: Not complaining proves you are children of God

    Paul gives us a personal reason why we should not complain in any thing: our testimony.

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Philippians 2:14–15 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing; [why?] 15 so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,

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If you do not complain, you’ll be blameless, innocent, above reproach children of God.

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Not grumbling will show yourself to be children … of God! And that’s what the watching world needs to see… If you trusted Christ and God has saved you, you are a child of God. If you ask the apostle John, you have been born again, begotten of God! If you ask the apostle Paul, you have been adopted into his family, and you have all the rights and privileges of being a child of God with an inheritance to come!

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You have all the reasons in the world not to grumble, complain, or bicker!

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And doesn’t your testimony before lost people matter? These lost people constantly lived in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation… That’s our culture: crooked and perverse. With all the wicked immorality…and not to mention all the complaining and grumbling that they already hear!

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You appear…rather, you shine as stars in the world.

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Jesus said … John 9:5 “While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” Is Jesus in the world? No, He’s gone back to the Father…

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Now what is true…Jesus says to His disciples…

Matthew 5:14–16 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

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And your grumbling spirit and your complaining words hide your light. The clouds have overshadowed your testimony … whether or not lost people hear the exact words of your grumble. They don’t have to hear your grumbling spirit for you to dampen your light….That’s because if you’re grumbling, you’re already heading down a path of rebellion. And nobody who is in secret rebellion against God can have a blameless testimony before those who live in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.

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ILL[FB Meyers]: And you cannot be content as a Christian without pouring your life into the lost of this world. So you must put off that wicked grumbling so that you can make disciples. In nature we see it all around us. Every flower shows its wonderful color and its attractive scent and the bee comes by… through which flowers reproduce. Every flower in the garden must reproduce itself or it is unworthy of the gardener who planted it.

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The deer live to pass on their DNA… And surely you can’t be content unless your soul shines before others that they may see your good works ….and of a truth they glorify your Heavenly Father.

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ILL[FB Meyers]: When you put two wires side-by-side and you put electricity through only one of them, you can faintly detect vibrations in the other wire.

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In the same way that electricity in one wire influences a nearby wire, there is influence from the Holy Spirit through a Christian on a lost soul. If you are walking with God and have a thirst for holiness and you long constantly to be made more righteous and you hunger and thirst for that and you are joyful in trial … there is a positive vibration of the Spirit of God in you that is having an influence upon lost people.

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But there can also be a negative influence if you have been harbouring a complaining and bickering spirit. And they know you’re a Christian but you complain and bicker and even you don’t complain before them, you’re not walking with God, you’re rebelling against God and so they are being influenced by that as well. You are constantly either for good or for bad affecting those that you come in contact with…for eternity.

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2 Corinthians 2:15–16 For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 16 to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life.

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That’s the design; you are an aroma. What smell are you giving off? You are a light, what light are you shining?

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ILL: As an astronomer marvels at the stars that they obey their Heavenly Father without fail in their perfect courses above … So may lost people in this crooked and perverse generation marvel at how you obey your Heavenly Father and graciously and joyfully submit to His will no matter the personal cost and may they glorify your Father in heaven.

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TRANS: But how may I be a blameless child of God and not complain? I can’t leave you this morning without some counsel on how to do this…Paul gives it to us…

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  1. The means: Continuing in the gospel

    You can be a blameless child of God in regards to grumbling by…Philippians 2:16 by holding fast the word of life.

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    Remember, the Philippians are being persecuted. If they grumble under their condition, they don’t have a good testimony. If they do not complain, they have a good testimony…and show themselves to be children of God…that it’s God who is at work in them.

    The way they will be able to be innocent children of God and have power not to complain is by continuing in the gospel. When a church holds tightly to the glorious gospel, it will by design prevent complaining even when persecuted, which preserves our testimonies that we are God’s children.

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    The word of life is the word that gives life. What is that word? It is the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news, gives life! That good news is that the penalty for all of our sin … Paid for at the cross! “It is finished!” The debt has been paid and I give my everything to Him and I’m free!

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    “When you were dead in your sin, He made you alive together with Him, by forgiving you of all our transgressions, and by canceling out that certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”

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    The Lord, God in flesh Jesus Christ, came and died and is raised from the dead so that you too may be raised from the dead and have eternal life, God’s life in you.

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    When you trust in Him and repent of sin, He credits to your account the righteousness of Christ himself; God’s eternal, fire-y wrath is no longer upon you and your guilt is extinguished before him. You are heirs to the glory of Christ and will be exalted with Him on that day.

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    He has given you peace, sanctification, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, who now indwells you and he is your down payment of the promised future resurrection. He has sealed you for that day. And you can have confident expectation of glorification and future resurrection when you will be conformed to the magnificent image of Christ in both body and spirit, exalted with Christ in that day, ruling and reigning with Him forever.

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    That glorious gospel is designed by God to empower you not to complain. How could you complain when you know … when you really, deep down really know that these things are true? Even under persecution I need not complain…for death is simply the entrance to everlasting life!

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    We need to treasure our Exodus more than the Israelites did. The Israelites didn’t treasure their Exodus… They grumbled and complained and didn’t think through it in any spiritually meaningful way that changed their life… We need to treasure our Exodus and look back at what Christ has done for us on the cross and if we treasure this and hold fast to this glorious gospel we will be empowered not to complain.

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    TRANS: Paul closes with 2 benefits .. and one I’m partial to.

  2. The benefit/motive: the joy of your minister and your perseverance

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Philippians 2:16 16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.

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Don’t grumble but hold fast to the word of life… why? So that your ministers will have reason to glory…to be full of joy at the day of Christ when we all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.

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Because otherwise if you grumble and complain and that is your life that will lead you down the path of continued rebellion against God which may someday eventuate in the reality that you were never saved in the first place … And then what point is it to minister among such people? Where is the reward in that?

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So if you want your pastor and your ministers to have a full reward in the day of Christ, you hold fast to the word of life. But second also you hold fast the word of life for your own perseverance sake. Running in vain, toiling in vain… indicates that someone started and didn’t finish. Start the race, finish it. We don’t want our ministry among each other to be pointless… So stop complaining and rebelling and hold fast to the word of life.

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CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Philippians 2.14-16

So some counsel to stop the complaining. Study the gospel of Christ. Meditate on its benefits. Praise God for His promises and cling to them.

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Jeremiah Burroughs recommends that we consider the greatness of the mercies that we have… And think of how little you actually lack.

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You have been given everything you need for life and godliness. The Father has blessed you with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places..election, redemption, and glorification…consider these!

Consider God’s mercies in his providence… Deeply consider his mercies in his daily provisions for you… Consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed to us…

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Burroughs recommends that to be content do not grasp too much of the things of this world. Exercise your trust in God, labor diligently to be spiritually minded, and deaden your heart to the world by purposefully limiting your comforts in it.

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You don’t need everything!

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Now, those in your home need to stop the complaining.

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APP: In our house, if you are grumbling when you are doing the job you’ve been assigned, you have to go calm down first before moving on. We don’t talk grumbling, we don’t work grumbling, we don’t do anything grumbling. We allow for crying, but not grumbling. But there is a fine line between crying and grumbling.

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APP: Teens, this means no backtalk to the parents. Honor them, don’t rebel against God. Your backtalk is rebellion against God. Husbands, this means no complaining to your wife about her cooking, appearance, or her duties. Call it a Bible word: It’s grumbling deserving of judgment. Love her as Christ does. And wives, don’t grumble against your husbands and tear them down in your heart, but honor them as your leader. Address your areas of growth gently and with respect.

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We all need help in this area. Let’s be careful to desire God’s leadership in our lives even if it takes us into situations that are uncomfortable.

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497 stanza 3.

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