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Stars! – Philippians 2:12-18

Stars! – Philippians 2:12-18
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 8, 2018

There was a kid’s cartoon TV show called Jimmy Neutron and one of the many characters was a guy who was the quintessential movie agent. He would tell other characters that he could make them “a super star!” Of course the whole idea was that he was trying to get people to think he could make anyone a “super star!” which wasn’t true. It seems however with the advent of reality TV and social media like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube and such that many think they can get their fifteen minutes of fame. But does that make you a “super star”?

The definition of what constitutes stardom has been redefined. Spiritual stardom is quite different. We learned last week that humility plays a huge role in achieving this status. Paul wanted his fellow disciples to become all they were meant to be in God’s kingdom. There was and is however no easy way to the goal of spiritual stardom. Yet for those who strive for it the race and its finish is spectacular! Let’s discover what Paul teaches us concerning being a star…
READ: Philippians 2:12-18

Even as Christians it is our choice whether we live for ourselves or for the glory of the Lord. In order to live a life worthy of being united with God Paul knew we are as…

I. Spiritual stars live in the awe and knowledge of God! (Vv. 12-13)

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

1. How many of us have either heard from our own parents or have said as a parent, “you kids be good while we are gone and do not get into trouble, I only want to hear good things about you when I get home”? Of course most of us have. Then there was the following caveat that if we did not behave as we should as siblings then we would suffer the consequences of our actions. Paul says much the same thing when he writes the Philippians “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling”! Paul desired that they fully understood the serious nature of their walk in this world with the Lord. They were living examples of the One they followed just as we are today! We can hear about Jesus, we can read about Jesus, and we can see some convoluted movies and TV specials about Jesus but the real way folks see and know Jesus is when they see him being displayed in the lives of his followers – meaning us! Far too many believers think their faith walk is only a Sunday morning experience or a once in a while “safe zone” where they can go and be spiritual for a while until they have to get back into the real world. Nothing could be further from the truth. Christians live in the real world; the ungodly, sinful, filthy, dirty world. And we are to be the influence on that world that Jesus wanted us to be! Jesus related that “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16 NIV)” Paul reminds his readers that “it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose”! We do not live for ourselves; we live to influence others and to honor the Lord! Spiritual stars live in the awe and knowledge of God!

EXAMPLE: The other night we had a blackout caused by a local transformer going out. It showed us just how dependent we are on electricity. It also displayed the wonder of God’s universe. In the darkness the stars showed a whole lot brighter without the lights of the nearby city to diffuse their brightness. It reminded me that Spiritual stars live in the awe and knowledge of God!

II. Spiritual stars shine in the midst of a sin-darkened world! (Vv. 14-16)

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life–in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.

1. There are those who constantly see the glass either half empty or half full. Christians can be of the same ilk in that they either see their walk with Jesus as a joy or a job. Our walk with the Lord is not to be seen as a job but as a personal process. We are to be striving to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called” us! Paul writes that as believers we are to “Do everything without complaining or arguing”. Notice that he writes that we are to do “everything”. That means everything in life: job, school, appointments, shopping, driving, walking, running, exercising, sports, food, fun, and fellowship – EVERYTHING! While we are children of the king we are not to act like earthly children but rather King’s kids! Certainly siblings can disagree and fight with one another but the believer is to be above the pettiness of nitpicking and complaining of the world around them. Why was this so important for Paul? His desire was that his readers would “become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation”. Blameless? Pure? Yep that is what we are to do, so why don’t we do that? We can forget that from the tiniest baby to the grandest sunset it is all sin-tainted. Like goldfish in a bowl we learn to live in the filth of our condition and it can begin to look great to us. But when we strive to be the true children of the King that we are meant to be we begin to see the world as it really is! This is why when we live like Paul shares we will “shine like stars in the universe as [we] hold out the word of life”! There should be a huge difference between the purity of Christ and the sin-filth of the world. We are stars who shine when we share the gospel! There should be a difference between the believer and the non-believer. Paul was proud of his progeny in Jesus and he wanted to be able to “boast on the day of Christ that [he] did not run or labor for nothing”. Isn’t this what every parent desires to do when their children do something wonderful? Paul knew that spiritual stars shine in the midst of a sin-darkened world!

EXAMPLE: When the power went out the other night it reminded me of why I like to head way out when I camp. You can see so much of the Milky Way! One of the best places to go is to the Goldendale Observatory outside of Goldendale, Washington. You can look through a large telescope and smaller ones during the day. I never realized until I went there that you can view some stars during the day if you have a powerful enough telescope! It reminds me of what Paul teaches us here that spiritual stars shine in the midst of a sin-darkened world!

III. Spiritual stars shine as an offering to the One they follow! (Vv. 17-18)

But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

1. We know and have learned that Paul was perhaps facing certain death for his witnessing about Jesus. He was after all in Rome chained to a Roman soldier under constant guard for his faith. He knew his life could end at any time because he was at the mercy and whim of the Roman Emperor. However Paul never forgot who his actual king was: Jesus. He no longer lived for himself but for the Lord whom he followed. He saw his life as a sacrifice to the God he lived for and this is why he wrote the Roman church, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. (Romans 12:1 NIV)” Paul understood he could not ask others to do what he was unwilling to do himself and so he never did. This is why he now wrote the Philippians, “But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.” Paul knew if he asked others to live as sacrifices for the Lord he would have to lead the way. The “drink offering” he referred to was the offering the Jews made in the temple and were also included with burnt and grain offerings in God-ordained sacrifices, including the morning and evening sacrifices. Yet Paul is using the idea here as a spiritual metaphor to describe his own service and to encourage other Christians to live the same way; as an offering being poured out to the Lord. This is why he writes them, “So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.” Spiritual stars shine as an offering to the One they follow!

EXAMPLE: I will never forget one camping trip I went on with my family. My father took us down to the creek nearby and showed my brother and me how to pan for gold. I was surprised when after a while and a lot of patience there were bright little flakes of gold shining in the bottom of our gold pans. It was fun and kind of exciting to be able to discover a tiny amount of shiny wealth in the midst of all that grey sand of the creek. We saved as much as we could, which wasn’t much. My dad gave my brother and I all that he found as well. It reminds me that spiritual stars shine as an offering to the One they follow!

Conclusion:

Spiritual stars live in the awe and knowledge of God! Spiritual stars shine in the midst of a sin-darkened world! Spiritual stars shine as an offering to the One they follow!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The Way of the Lord! – Psalm 19

The Way of the Lord! – Psalm 19
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 25, 2017

In Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland” the Queen of Hearts asks Alice where she comes from, Alice tries to explain that she is trying to find her way home. The Queen retorts, “Your way? All ways here are my ways!” We have all known folks who radiate the notion that “It’s my way or the highway!” And this might pass muster if you are an infant, toddler, or preschooler but it gets old and very tiring from an adult. Yet many live their lives this way. Perhaps they need to reconsider their way of life and consider the way of the Lord instead?

Here in this Psalm we discover the ways of the Lord are truly magnificent. In fact in many ways they are quite indescribable and incomprehensible. The Psalmist David tries his best to describe for his listeners the way of the Lord. Let’s discover what he sings…

READ: Psalm 19

As amazing as some of things mankind has created none of it compares to the creation of God. The Psalmist David teaches us that…

I. The way of the Lord is found in the works of his hands! (Vv. 1-6)

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.

1. Within the next couple of months, our area will experience a total solar eclipse; a heavenly event only seen a few times in a person’s lifetime and extremely rare. When the ancients saw such phenomenon some thought some evil disaster would occur, however, others like the Hebrews saw it as a manifestation of the creative wonders of God. This is why the Psalmist David writes that “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Both the starry skies at night and sunlit days declared and proclaimed God’s creative work because “Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” In fact the writer understood that the whole world experienced God’s handiwork, “There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” Therefore in his understanding there was no excuse for people not knowing there was a Creator; a God who made everything they saw in the heavens at night or saw in the sunlight by day! All they had to do was look up! From dawn till dusk a person could see God’s creative work for “In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.” Just as the sun burst forth in the morning and seemed to all of sudden appear like a rejoicing bridegroom or a runner ready to run his race we can see the work of God in the sun running its race across the sky each day! All of creation, all mankind had a front row seat to this heavenly spectacle as “It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.”  Truly for the Psalmist David the way of the Lord is found in the works of his hands!

EXAMPLE: Just as artists sign their works, use the same brushstrokes, or leave their fingerprints in the paint; or as sculptures that use certain chisels or polishing techniques that leave telltale marks on the statues they carve, we can see the signature of God in the things he has made. From the atoms that are the building blocks of everything there is to the most complex life form we see the signature of God in his creation. The Psalmist David simply looked to the heavens and saw that they declared God. The way of the Lord is found in the works of his hands!

In a world where so many are searching for something and often finding they have not been told the truth it is refreshing to find that God’s words are steadfast and true. The Psalmist David writes that…

II. The way of the Lord is discovered in his directions! (Vv. 7-11)

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

1. Not every child is perfect but almost every mother sees their newborn as such. Why is that? I believe it is simply because most every mother instantly falls in love with their child. By their sheer devotion they accept their child completely, utterly, and without hesitation. Faith is a bit like this. It is the individual’s willingness to utterly accept what God has revealed to them. Until one does, they can never ever fully understand or know God’s word. This is why the Psalmist David wrote that “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.” We are imperfect but God’s law is and can restore us completely when we follow its ways. In fact, “The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” God’s laws, his ways are not complex, confusing, or hard to understand; one simply follows God wholeheartedly and loves others as he loves himself! “The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.” Some of the simplest folks I have known have been truly the wisest and happiest because they adhere to this one godly precept. For the Psalmist David God was not unknowable or a concept and neither were his laws; they gave him insight, light in a sin-darkened world, and a way to view reality as it truly was and so “The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” He knew that when one drew near to God they would be awed by his presence and humbled by the experience because “The fear (the awe) of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.” This is what reminds us who we are and whom we are to worship and is why there was no question of doubt in his mind that “The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.” David could absolutely trust in the law of God, his statues, precepts, commands, and ordinances. And as he did they became “more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they [were] sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.” The Psalmist David had come to know God intimately by walking with him moment by moment in following his ways and in doing so he had learned that “By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” The way of the Lord is discovered in his directions!

EXAMPLE: I have found a wondrous consistency in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation that I did not find in any other spiritual work I ever read. The Koran, the Vedas, Book of Mormon, or other works seemed shallow, simplistic, disjointed, and totally fabricated. While there are those who will declare that there are also inconsistencies within Scriptures it is usually because they are like someone who looks at a sweet little child’s work of art and can only see the mistakes instead of the heartfelt joy, the beauty of creation, or its simple reliability. No wonder so many folks have not discovered what the Psalmist David did, that the way of the Lord is discovered in his directions!

Much of the psychological, emotional, and spiritual problems the world faces are because the world’s view of morality has been drastically skewed. The Psalmist teaches us that…

III. The way of the Lord is understood when we confess our sin! (Vv. 12-14)

Who can determine his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

1. Unless a person is willing to look at and acknowledge their own imperfections they are not being honest with themselves or others and certainly not with God. It can be difficult to do. This is why the Psalmist David asks, “Who can determine his errors?” And if course the answer is “no one can.” We are to narrow in our view of ourselves. Yet if we are willing to honestly look at ourselves and truthfully admit our sins we can be the people God desires. This is why the Apostle John would write, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” (1 John 1:8-10 NIV) So the Psalmist David immediately confesses, “Forgive my hidden faults.” These were the sins he tried to hide from God but knew he could not yet he had deceived himself into thinking he could! Kind of like we do. Yet he took his condition one step further by requesting, “Keep your servant also from willful sins” because his whole desire was that “they not rule over me.” He did not want his headstrong nature and stubborn sin or anything that was unconfessed to rule or reign in his life! We often try to make excuses for our ungodly actions but this man wanted to be fully free from any guilt in order to follow God. He knew that if he was honest about his ungodliness then he would “be blameless, innocent of great transgression.” In thinking about the wondrous works of God and his simple yet beautiful precepts the Psalmist David realized his own evil nature. He would write in another Psalm, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.” (Psalms 51:1-4 NIV) And so it is here we find him praying, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Because like Paul, David knew that “it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Romans 10:10 NIV) The way of the Lord is understood when we confess our sin!

EXAMPLE: I find it humorous when a believer is caught in their sin and they blame circumstances, others, or try to justify their actions in that they deserved to commit this sin in this instance! I often want to blurt out, “Don’t you hear yourself?” For all of his faults David was willing to do whatever it took to restore his relationship with the Lord. And here in this wonderful Psalm about God’s creation David teaches us that the way of the Lord is understood when we confess our sin!

Conclusion:

The way of the Lord is found in the works of his hands! The way of the Lord is discovered in his directions! The way of the Lord is understood when we confess our sin!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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