We have been directing our attention this month towards Jesus words in Matthew 5:13 -16. There is a serious command for all of us in vs. 16 – “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” This is not the only passage that mentions our obligation to shine in a dark world.
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now 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 do for His good pleasure. Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.” (start wth the last part of vs. 15)
I. “In the midst of a crooked and perverse generation..” What kind of world do we live in? Have you ever contemplated the state of our society? “Crooked and perverse generation” – this is an interesting phrase. The term “generation” refers broadly to the people of the day. Each age has its own specific culture, lifestyle and worldview. The society of Paul’s day was:
- Crooked – skolios – what is bent, curved or twisted (scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine). It is used here metaphorically to refer to that which deviates from the standard. It implies the ability to measure or judge what it should be. Solomon speaks of “those who “leave the paths of uprightness To walk in the ways of darkness; 14 Who rejoice in doing evil, And delight in the perversity of the wicked; 15 Whose ways are crooked, And who are devious in their paths;” (Prov 2:!3-15). The world rejects the standard of conduct given by God.
- Preverse – translates from diastrepho (dee-as-tref’-o); which means to distort, i.e. (figuratively) misinterpret, or (morally) to corrupt: That which is perverse is contrary to its intended purpose, and thus corrupt. We live is a corrupted society and its is continuing to decay. We must not be influenced by it, but be saved from it. Acts 2:40 – 40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.”
A. As some theologians would describe it, we now live in a “post-Christian culture” This simply means that the old norms once held true are no longer accepted by the majority For example, people as a majority once believed in God, that the Bible was the Word of God, and that Jesus was the Son of God; but such is no longer the case. The majority no longer accepts certain basic principles of morality taught in both the Old and New Testament, even ridiculing those people who do as “old-fashioned” and “un-enlightened”
1. That we live in a “post-Christian culture” is true both socially and religiously:
- Socially, in that divorce, remarriage, living together without marriage, and homosexuality are now commonly accepted as “alternative lifestyles”
- Religiously, as women take roles of church leadership & homosexual ministers, and various forms of “new age” religions are now accepted by many.
2. Paul and other 1st century Christians lived in a “Pre-Christian” culture where the society was driven by pagan religious thought, intellectualism, and immorality. How were they to react to their world? How should we react to ours?
II. “Shining Lights” – How do we do this? Should Christians form political action committees, boycott products, picket, or participate in economic blackmail? Should we resort to violence and bomb abortion clinics? Should we isolate ourselves in religious communes? Look again at Paul’s answer in Phil. 2. Our duty is to daily live so as to influence others – the natural influence of godliness. Notice the accompanying elements of this obligation to shine in a dark world.
A. “work out your own salvation” Godly influence begins with taking personal responsibility for my own salvation. A few implications here:
- Salvation is personal & no one can secure your salvation through obedience except you.
- If you are not careful to be saved yourself, how can you influence others to be saved? Jesus made it clear that we could not be effective is helping others if the “beam” remained in our own eye. (Matt. 7:1-6) Paul told Timothy “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” 1 Tim 4:16;
- The tragedy of hypocrisy – Rom. 2:17-24 – Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, 18 and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law, 19 and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. 21 You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? 22 You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? 24 For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written.
1. How does this verse reconcile with salvation by grace? Barnes says that this passage “does not mean that we are to attempt to deserve salvation on the ground of merit. That is out of the question; for what can man do that shall be an equivalent for eternal happiness in heaven? Nor, does it mean that we are to endeavor to make atonement for past sins. That would be equally impossible, and it is, besides, unnecessary. That work has been done by the great Redeemer. But it means: (i) that we are to make an honest effort to be saved in the way which God has appointed; (ii) that we are to break off from our sins by true repentance; (iii) that we are to believe in the Saviour, and honestly to put our trust in him; (iv) that we are to give up all that we have to God; (v) that we are to break away from all evil companions and evil plans of life; and (vi) that we are to resist all the allurements of the world, and all the temptations which may assail us that would lead us back from God, and are to persevere unto the end. (from Barnes’ Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)
B. “With fear & trembling”- There is very little fear in many Christian’s lives. The perspective of judgment must always be before us. (the Calvinistic doctrine that once a person is saved, he cannot be lost has robbed many religiously sincere people of the fear of judgment.) Matthew 10:28– And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
C. “It is God who works in you” – the ability that we have to influence others and shine in the world is from God. Provided through His word. A person plants a tree – but the production of the fruit is entirely God’s work.
D. “Without murmuring and disputing..”. Living in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation can easily get us down, where we can become constant complainers. But allowing that to happen will render us less effective. And as with Israel, “murmuring” can lead to our own downfall – 1 Cor 10:6-11 “Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come”
- Paul warns against “disputing” – profitless arguing among ourselves. Unity among brethren is extremely important as we try to convince the world. Disputing with one another simply reveals we have some growing up to do.
E. As “Blameless & harmless” children of God – Not that we are perfect, but like elders are to be blameless, we are to be “above reproach” We may be sinners, but we quickly confess our sins and make amends when it is called for. We should live in such a way that we have no “outstanding faults” that are clearly evident to others. Nothing hinders our ability to “shine as lights” like inconsistency and hypocrisy, especially that which is evident to all.
- We must never appear to desire to do harm to others. As Jesus said, we are to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” – Mt 10:16
F. “Holding Fast the Word of Life” – Some translations say “hold fast”, others “hold forth” We must both “HOLD FAST” and “HOLD FORTH” THIS POWERFUL WORD! – “Hold fast” the word in our own study and application & “Hold forth” the word as we proclaim it to those we are trying to change
- In this, we would do well to follow the example of Ezra, and the order in which he applied himself – Ezra 7:10 – 10 For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel” a. To first “seek the Law of the Lord” b. Then “to do it” & Finally, “to teach” others.
Conclusion: . In these verses we find the way Christians are to “shine as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation” It involves…
- Working out our own salvation
- With fear and trembling
- By letting God work in us
- Doing things without murmuring and disputing
- As children of God without fault
- Holding fast the word of life
If our ultimate objective is not just changing legislation, but the hearts of men to the ways of God, then this is how we can do it! And this is how we will “rejoice in the day of Christ” — and know that our own labor will not be in vain! – Phil. 2:16