Written by Dave Urbanski

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We just went through the theology of complaining in our study last Sunday, which covered just one verse from the second chapter of Philippians (verse 14): “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.”

And as Pastor Scott pointed out — both during his sermon and after our midweek meeting about his message — this all-important verse doesn’t mean Christians aren’t allowed to discuss negative things. We have to! If there’s a problem, it needs to be solved — and that means talking about negative things. Even more than that, there will be conflict in friendships and marriages and in groups, and they need to be solved and resolved, too. It’s all about being real in a world that’s really messed up.

This past Sunday, we dug into a bit of verse 14 again but focused mostly on the remaining verses in the passage through verse 18. They read like so: “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, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.”

The word “blameless” in verse 15 is important to break down. There’s a difference between being “blameless” and “sinless.” As Pastor Scott noted, we’re not sinless! Instead being blameless is the result of how Christians live out their lives amid a crumbling culture; when we shine Christ’s light and strive to do the right thing, we take on the characteristics of being blameless. Consider when we’re around others who sometimes apologize to us when they use foul language or tell dirty jokes — because they know we’re not like that or are about those things. That’s a sign of our blamelessness. 

Another eye-opening moment occurred when Pastor Scott told us about the ancient Greek word related to the phrase “crooked and twisted”— it’s called “scolios,” which of course points to the familiar English word “scoliosis,” a painful condition when the spine is twisted. So when we’re talking about a “crooked and twisted generation,” we can safely say that generation’s condition involves some degree of pain! The way nonbelievers live is not “fun” or “cool” — when push comes to shove, it hurts. And not necessarily physically (although that can be part of it) but also spiritually and emotionally. And when pressure comes, they can’t handle it and get crushed.

That illustration ought to inform us about the plight of others with whom we share this planet — because as the rest of verse 15 states, we “shine” in their midst “as lights in the world.” Again, they see we’re different, they see we’ve changed, and they notice something about us that deep down they desire.

But it’s also important to keep in mind that such a positive response isn’t alway how things go. In the drama of temporal meeting eternal, mortal flesh doesn’t always turn the right way. In fact, some folks when exposed to the light of life, which originates with Christ, don’t want any part of it. They don’t want their sin laid bare. They don’t want their bankrupt deeds revealed. And yes, some want no part of God when given the chance to turn to him.

But also, as Pastor Scott suggested, let’s also ask ourselves in what manner we’re shining our light: Are we doing it annoyingly, right into others’ eyes … or are we helpfully guiding others’ paths, making sure they don’t trip? Let it always be the latter.

Another important point comes from verse 16 where Paul hopes we’re “holding fast to the word of life.” Pastor Scott pointed out that we have two cultures existing in front of us each day: that of the world and that of the Kingdom of God. And when we fall into the habit of spending more time digesting the culture of the world — such as cable news — then that gets in the way of the culture that will ultimately endure: the one belonging to the Lord’s kingdom.

In the latter part of the passage, we got a picture of Paul getting personal with his brothers and sisters in the Philippian church — and with us! This part, as Pastor Scott noted, is the WHY of what Paul has been communicating: He wants to make sure his efforts haven’t been in vain or a waste of time. He’s interested in the state of these peoples’ souls. As we should be! The race we all run as believers in Jesus of course means we want to impact as many people as possible; but there’s another side to it. Our love for other isn’t all about numbers; it’s about the heart, too! How is our heart in relation to the Lord? How are the hearts of others’ we love and have spent time with doing? That’s a factor only Jesus can measure.

Pastor Scott also shared another crucial historical reference from verse 17, breaking down what Paul means by being “poured out as a drink offering.” In Jewish sacrificial law was the act of pouring out wine — and it hits the ground or a burned lamb or bull, and it’s gone for good! Never again drinkable. In short, it’s a way of expressing that we are “all in” for the Lord, and other things, even possessions we value here and now, must fall by the wayside. 

Finally in verse 18, Paul urges us to “be glad and rejoice with me.” Remember, Paul is in prison and facing death on a daily basis — but it is indeed well with his soul, as the hymn writer once said. As Paul rejoices despite his suffering and the world’s hatred, so should we rejoice.

In that light, Pastor Scott emphasized that we are all in this together, struggling and triumphing as one people of God. As we began this all-important passage with the command to stop our grumbling and disputing, we close it literally with worship. And if you’re truly worshiping, it’s impossible to be grumbling and disputing and complaining. So let us worship and rejoice and move forward in our lives accordingly.

Written by Dave Urbanski

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This past Sunday we focused on just one Bible verse — and it’s one we all know well, either from our own study of Scripture … or because we’re all quite familiar with the subject matter.

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” — Philippians 2:14

Who among us hasn’t been guilty of that? Of complaining?

But while we as believers certainly have joined the chorus of complaining from time to time, we really don’t need to be singing that tune! Pastor Scott broke down the verse and explained to us that Christians instead ought to be thinking differently than nonbelievers and focusing on solutions to our problems rather than on the problems themselves.

Indeed, there are biblical reasons to avoid complaining.

The first is recognizing that God is working positively in our lives, no matter what our circumstances might be. God always has a bigger plan in mind and is using events in our lives to teach us — about patience, about forgiveness. The bottom line is that we live in a broken, fallen world, and not everything is going to go perfectly. Therefore we must continually tell ourselves the truths that God is in control, God is good, and God is loving.

The second reason to not complain is that the seeming setbacks we deal with are opportunities for God to work in our lives. Think about Paul in prison: He didn’t view that “setback” (to put it mildly) as the end of things for him. Instead it was a beginning — and an opportunity, he wrote more than once, to advance the gospel!

In this vein, Pastor Scott brought up one of the many Old Testament accounts of the Israelites complaining about their circumstances in the wilderness. And he pointed out a very interesting tidbit. They complained about the same three things that children always complain about: the food, the living conditions, and the leadership. Truth!

One question we need to ask ourselves: What is the opposite of complaining? Pastor Scott said the answer is trust. When our complaining increases, how much are we trusting in God’s authority? Probably not much. Therefore when we notice our complaining is increasing, we need to do a spiritual check and realize that our level of trust in the Lord isn’t as high as it should be.

Another key point Pastor Scott made is that there’s a big difference between complaining AT God and complaining TO God. He used David’s Psalms as an example of a “good kind of complaining.” In Psalm 142, we see David pleads to the Lord for mercy — an outcry for God to take burdens from him. And the thing is, God wants us to go to him in need. He waits and waits and waits for us to come to him in prayer. As believers, we need not bottle up those raw emotions. Instead we can go straight to the Lord’s throne and ask him to work in our lives.

Another compelling moment came with Pastor Scott introducing the Greek word for “disputing” in Philippians 2:14 — and it’s “dialogismos.” Indeed it’s closely related to the English word “dialog,” except it runs deeper than that. Pastor Scott checked out all the places in Scripture where the word “dialogismos” shows up and told us that it’s related to our “inner dialog” — our thoughts and inner discussions we have with ourselves.

The word “dialogismos,” for example, is found in Luke 5:22 when Jesus heals the paralyzed man on the mat and then rebukes the Pharisees for their inner thoughts against Christ’s rightful ability as the Son of Man to forgive sins. 

See, our internal dialogue can really get us into trouble and get us going in the wrong direction. But as believers, we need not entertain our problematic inner dialog because Jesus is in control of our lives, and he knows what he’s doing!

Therefore let us continually keep in mind these important principles as we move forward:

  • Complaining can be a spiritual indicator of a “heart” problem. So let’s be ready to do a heart check!
  • Complaining TO God (but not AT God) is a good thing. No, the Lord won’t necessarily take away every problem we want to get rid of — consider Paul and his thorn in the flesh the Lord wouldn’t remove — but instead works in us through all kinds of circumstances, even negative ones.
  • The opposite of complaining is trust.
  • And complaining and negative thinking is not befitting of Christians.

Indeed, it’s often difficult for us to know why God does and allows certain things to happen in our lives. More often that not, we have no idea what God is doing. Therefore let us ask him to help us trust in him more and more each day.

Written by Dave Urbanski

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As we got back into Paul’s letter to the Philippians amid the outset of 2022, we looked at a verse Sunday that is often misunderstood.

It’s found in chapter 2, verse 12: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

Many Christians have wondered concerning this verse, “Does that mean we have to work for God’s forgiveness? I thought we couldn’t work our way into heaven.”

As Pastor Scott pointed out, the answer to that question is an unequivocal “no.” The idea of “work out your own salvation” doesn’t mean we have to make an effort to be saved or earn God’s favor. Instead the full passage we examined is about how we live and behave day to day now that we are part of God’s family (after all, Paul wrote his letter to his “beloved” in the Philippian church — those who already have given their lives to Jesus and accepted his gift of salvation).

But let’s look again at the passage, which also includes verse 13: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Pastor Scott equated this passage to engaging in a “spiritual workout” that maximizes the health of our souls — in the same way that a physical workout maximizes our physical health.

But first we must consider a familiar word that opens the passage: “Therefore.” As we’ve studied at other times, we know “therefore” signals that the words which follow it are based on previously discussed principles. And what are they in this case? Earlier in chapter 2, Paul tells us that as believers in Jesus moving forward in our faith, we must have the same mind and put others first — because that’s exactly what Jesus did by coming to earth in the form of a servant and dying for our sins.

And after Paul writes “therefore,” he offers what Pastor Scott noted are six guidelines for living in light of those spiritual truths. They could be summarized as, “How to have a great spiritual workout.”

1. Find a Good Trainer

Why would someone want a trainer for a physical workout? Because it’s hard work! And having someone come alongside you helps you improve — and having an expert next to you will help you strengthen your workout weaknesses. As believers, we know that Jesus is our best trainer, and he wrote our training manual (the Bible), and he’s always with us. Plus, he deeply desires that we ask him how to grow in our faith and grow closer to him! So let’s do that, and ask Jesus to be our trainer.

2. Check your motivation

Paul tells his brothers and sisters that they should be obeying God even more now that he’s absent from them, and that points to an important principal: Doing the right thing, especially when no other humans are watching. It’s about integrity. And it says a lot about where we are spiritually when we’re willing to obey God when there’s no human audience to impress. 

3. Do the work

We already noted this very important principal, but it bears repeating: Working out our own salvation isn’t about working our way into heaven, which is impossible. Instead it’s about the work it takes to live as Christians day to day, which takes effort and intent. One of the interesting points that Pastor Scott brought up is that the Greek word Paul used to describe such a workout implies trying to dig something out of a mine.

Think about that: Miners can dig all day and come up with nothing. It can be tedious, exhausting, and frustrating work. But they have to keep at it, because every now and then, they’ll come up with a gem! A big payoff. And there would be no reward if they didn’t engage in the hard work day to day when it seems like nothing is being accomplished. Living the Christian life can feel like that, too. But we must continue to dig.

4. Your own salvation

God teaches different things to different people. While we’re all headed to the same place (heaven), we’re all on our own pilgrimage, our own journey, our own salvation. That part is personal to each one of us, and that should signal to each one of us to not compare ourselves to other believers. However, in the midst of our personal faith journeys, we all need to come together as one when we gather in church and share our stories — our triumphs and our struggles — and encourage one another.

5. With fear and trembling

In short, we need to take this stuff seriously! Sin has the power to damage and corrupt us. So we need to battle against sin, and that takes effort. It’s a fight, a race, and we need to engage in it every day as we battle our enemies: Satan, the world in general, and our own flesh. It’s not about being “scared of God”; rather it’s about taking seriously the fact that God is more awesome and holy that we can possibly fathom — and to take seriously the work involved to live our lives in light of God’s greatness.

6. Take your supplements

Verse 13 reads, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Here the passage shifts to the idea that at the end of all our human efforts to live in the way the Lord commands as members of his heavenly family, we can take heart that it’s NOT all about what we do! The bottom line is that God is the one working in us, and it’s all about HIM. And the Greek word word for “work” in this case denotes “energy.” And how do we get energy as believers? We rely on God! We work hard, but we rely on the Lord to give us what we need so we can exert the necessary energy. So take your spiritual supplements the Lord provides.