SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY
FOURTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
SEPTEMBER 15, 2019
Title: “Our Responsibility in Obedience
Text: “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye 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” (Philippians 2:12).
Scripture Reading: Philippians 2:12-18.
Apollo in Greek mythology is the national divinity of the Greeks. He is the Greek god of archery, dance and music, truth and prophecy, the sun and light, poetry and more. In one of the many art galleries of Europe there is an Old Greek statue of Apollo that is a beautiful figure of physical perfection. Someone visiting the gallery said he did not know which impressed him more, to look at the statue or to watch the crowd as they looked. Invariably, he said, everyone who stood before it, even for a casual glance, began to straighten up, put back his or her shoulders, and stand tall. The statue has the lifting power of loftiness.
This is something of the sensation we have as we read the lofty description of the journey of Christ from glory to the cross and back to glory by way of the cross. Paul gave us this marvelous description of the grace and glory of Christ as an appeal to unity. He wanted us to have the mind of Christ, an attitude of humility and service. For his obedience he received the exaltation of God.
Paul returned to exhortation and appeal in Philippians 2:12, picking up from verse 8 as a point of reference. Christ was obedient even to the cross. We are to be obedient also.
Arabian horses are trained rigorously in the middle eastern deserts. The horses must learn to fully obey their master. This obedience is tested by depriving the horses of water for many days and then turning them loose near water. As the horses get to the edge of the water, and just before they drink of the much needed water. The trainer blows his whistle. If the horses have learned to obey they turn around and come back to the trainer who then gives them as much water as they need. The trainer knows what his horses need and will not allow them to die of thirst, but they must trust him. God knows what His children need and wants to supply it, but we must trust and obey Him.
The first thing I want to run by you is that verse 12 and 13 reminds us that our responsibility for obedience shows in the certainty of salvation. Obedience to God is manifested in salvation. Paul’s exhortation to “work out your own salvation,” sounds strange to our ears, for Paul was the one who insisted that salvation is wholly by grace. Two things must be kept in mind: (1) He said, “work out” not “work for.” Salvation is by grace. (2) Paul was referring to the final result of salvation we enjoyed in Christ.
Salvation is wholly accomplished in the work of Jesus Christ. In verse 13 Paul asserted that it is God who works within us. Although salvation is entirely a gift from God, we must cooperate with God in obedience and faith in order to receive it.
How are we to go about working out the salvation that God has given us, bringing to a final conclusion the results of God’s grace? A constructive fear of God keeps us from a dangerous self confidence. Spurgeon told of a servant girl who gave as the proof of her conversion that now she swept all her bad ways under the mats and behind the door. This is a proper combination of awe and responsibility, fear and trembling.
Secondly, verse 14 and 15 tels of our responsibility for obedience shows up in the splendor of salvation. Paul’s exhortation in verse 14 is, “Do all things without murmurings and disputings.” His reason is in verse 15: “that… in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation…ye shine as lights in the world.” That is the splendor of salvation. The splendor of salvation is that the Chistian shines in a world of darkness and perversity.
Pierre Barlot was a gunner in the fort of Mont Valerin during the Prussian siege of Paris. One day he was standing by his gun when General Noel, the commander, came up and leveled his glass at the Sevres bridge. “Gunner,” he said, “do you see the Sevres bridge over there?” “Yes, sir.”“And that little shanty in a thicket of shrubs to the left?” “I see it, sir,” said Pierre, turning pale. “It’s a nest of Prussians; try it with a shell, my man.” Pierre turned paler still. He sighted his piece deliberately, carefully, then fired it. “Well hit, my man, well hit!” exclaimed the general. But as he looked at Pierre he was surprised to see a great tear running down the gunner’s cheek. “What’s the matter, man?” “Pardon me, General,” said Pierre, “it was my house—everything I had in the world.”
Paul gave us three ways in verse 15 to shine as lights in the world. We are to be “blameless,” “harmless,” and “without rebuke.” When used of people, it implies absolute sincerity. In the sight of God, Christians are without rebuke. They should be able to withstand even the scrutiny of God.
Paul in verses 16-18 reminds us that our responsibility for obedience shows up in the service of salvation. What is our service? We are to hold forth the word of life by proclaiming God’s message of salvation and by demonstrating Christian living. If we do this, our lives will have purpose and will not have been in vain. Paul uses two very vivid pictures to show this.
One has to do with athletics and the other with religion. He does not mind sacrificing his life to serve God.
A missions director once met with the mother of one of his agency’s missionaries and spent some time getting to know her. She prepared tea for the director in her parlor and as they drank the tea, she explained to him the difficulty of having a daughter on the mission field of China and a son as a missionary in Sudan. She loved and missed them dearly, but as she explained, her love for God allowed her to let them follow His will for their lives. The mother went on to describe the burden her son had for the Sudanese people. Her relay of his description of the people brought her to tears several times during the conversation. The missions director left her house with a deeper appreciation for the parents of missionaries and a greater burden for the country of Sudan.
A few months later the missions director got word that a missionary in Sudan had been killed—it was the Scottish lady’s son. Feeling he should be the one to break the news to her, he once again visited the mother in her home. After telling her the tragic news, the mother looked down, and in a few moments of composure she said, “Sir, I would rather have my son die in the middle of Sudan, alone, than to have him living here with me, disobeying God’s will.” What is the result of this kind of service? Joy and rejoicing in life.
We have a responsibility to be obedient to God. And as we are obedient to him, we will have real joy in life. God will give us the joy, the peace that passeth all understanding. Our responsibility for obedience shows in the certainty of salvation. Our responsibility for obedeince shows up in the splendor of salvation. Our responsibility for obedience shows up in the service of salvation. God bless you all!!