Today before the sermon began, Nicki got up front and talked with us about a project we're doing for Lent. We've got a few hundred stones in the lobby by the cafe, and they have words or phrases written on them.
Everyone gets to take a stone. Put it in your pocket during the week, and use it as a reminder to think about the Lord.
We can exchange stones each Sunday. Write your name on the stone you're returning, and we can also pray for each other. We will have a place to write and post your experiences with the stones - our stone stories.
Then Pastor Ed Allen continued his sermon series on Spiritual Growth in the book of Philippians, looking at Philippians 2:12-18 this week.
He focused mainly on the verse, "Do everything without grumbling or arguing."
Paul had something big in mind: Don't let your petty hurt feelings or small-minded disagreements weaken God's work through you.
We Northern Virginians need this - we have a reputation for being highly demanding.
Our demandingness drives us into unnecessary disagreements that weaken God's work in us.
The context for this principle began at the end of chapter 1: "Stand firm in one spirit, contending as one person for the faith of the gospel."
And in chapter 2: "Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."
This passage had a "Therefore:" "Therefore . . . continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling."
Does that contradict Paul's teaching that we're justified by faith through God's grace?
No, we're freely justified as a gift of God, not based on good works. (See Romans 3:23-24; 4:4-5; 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9)
Paul uses "justification" to talk about what God has done for us. He uses the word "salvation" to talk about our experience with God now.
We can't work at our justification, but we can enrich our experience with God now. We can deepen our connection with God, once we have it.
This is not casual Christianity! This series is about spiritual growth, not spiritual idling.
He immediately reminds them even that is from God's work in them (even the desire).
He could have talked about a lot of things - sexual immorality, greed, pride, etc. Instead he talks about complaining and arguing.
Complaining and arguing put us in a very bad place. Simmering conflict does tremendous damage. Conflicts can weaken God's work in us and through us.
Conflict impacts three areas:
1. It threatens our character. ("so that you may become blameless and pure")
2. It threatens our ministry and influence. ("as you hold out the word of life")
3. It threatens the ministry of others and God's overall reputation. ("that I did not run or labor for nothing")
Paul has in mind the grumbling of the Israelites in the wilderness, who were called a "warped and crooked generation."
Don't let God's work be threatened by our petty disagreements!
Our faith doesn't center on the good we do or how much we know -- it's centered on how much we love.
Christianity happens in the context of our relationships. It's tied in with selfish ambition and vain conceit in the previous section.
Do you realize how many opportunities there are to argue and complain?
People of God, let's not do it!