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God’s Goal Is Our Goal (Philippians 2:14-30) August 3, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Philippians, Religion, Sermons, Spiritual Goals.


Philippians 2:14-29

John MacArthur once said that there are three ways to fail in life. You can be lazy and do nothing and fail in life. Or you can try to do a bit of everything and not focus on anything and also fail in life. Or you can set a goal, work hard to accomplish that goal and then find out at the end that the goal was the wrong goal and was not worth the trouble you gave to that goal.

What we want to do is focus on God’s goals for our life and make them our goals. In our Scripture today we see one of God’s goals for our life commanded and we see one exemplified.

Goal #1 is commanded – God’s goal is for us to become blameless and harmless (verses 14-18).

There are at least three different meanings for the word “blameless.”

One of them is “without blemish,” what we would call sinlessly perfect. This is what Jesus is. Blameless in every way.

There is another word which means perfect but in a specific action. A baseball pitcher can throw a perfect game in which every batter gets out but no pitcher throws a perfect game every time.

The concept “blameless” can also be described by the phrase “does not deserve criticism.” This is the meaning that we are considering today. Philippians 2:14-15 tells us that if we do all things without complaining and disputing, we will become blameless (undeserving of criticism). This does not mean sinless but it does mean that no one will be able to criticize us.

This word is never used of Jesus. Jesus was unblemished but he was often criticized. Even today, there are those who say that Jesus as man must have sinned. It is not true but this accusation is sometimes made. This word is, however, used of people on earth (Luke 1:6 of Zacharias and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist; Paul said of himself in Philippians 3:6 that he was blameless in keeping the law).

Part of God’s goal for our life is that we be blameless. Paul points this out earlier in 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 where he writes to the new believers in Thessalonica, “…so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.”

In other words, it is God’s goal for us to live in such a way that we are undeserving of criticism, that is, that we have a blameless reputation and if we do that we will be in comparison to the people around us “without fault,” again “undeserving of criticism.” This what we as believers are to strive for in this world.

God’s goal in our lives is not only to be blameless but also harmless. Jesus describes what this word means in Matthew 10:16 when he commands the disciples to be as wise as serpents but as harmless as doves. The picture is this: a serpent is a dangerous animal which hunts by stealth and wisdom and we should be wise but not deceitful, not manipulative, not the type who would hurt others to accomplish our means, not the type who acts from ulterior and unknown motives.

Now how are we to accomplish this? How do we live in such a way that the ungodly world will have no justifiable reason to criticize us or to suspect our motives? By not complaining and disputing.

I like the sound of the German translation of this word, “murmeln”. Mumbling and grumbling, you can almost hear someone quietly belly aching about having to get out of bed to go to work, leave a enjoyable past time to go to church. Complaining you see is a quiet sin. It sometimes goes on a long time before you see it blow up but it is no less deadly because of its quietness. What is talked about here is not the loudmouth, belligerent jerk but the quiet behind the scenes mumbling and grumbling, the thoughts that are perhaps never expressed by words but it is that type of thing that if we stay away from it will result in a good reputation in the midst of this crooked and perverted world in which we live.

The second word is disputing. This has as much to do with our thoughts as with our words. It is often translated “doubtful.” When Paul talks in Romans 14 about the doubtful things that people argue about and get puffed up about, this is the word he uses. There are number of examples of these things in the Scriptures but I think one of the clearest examples is to be found in Luke 9:43-50 where we find the disciples disputing as to who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Now this goal God has for our lives will have two results. According to verse 15, it will make our witness to this world, our efforts to advance the gospel more effective. Secondly, according to verses 16-18, when Christ comes there will be rejoicing in those who have invested their lives in our spiritual welfare. This leads into the second goal that God has for us.

Goal #2 is exemplified – God’s goal is for us to seek the things (or work) of Christ in others (verses 16-29).

The example of Paul (verses 16-19, 24-25a): He was a sacrifice for the faith of others (verse 17). Notice the imagery, he is being poured out. The burnt sacrifice has been made and then the drink offering is poured on the burning coals and the steam rises up to God. Paul says that is my life. Not his death. Paul has already written that he is confident that he is going to escape prison. Paul is saying in this verse that the Philippians were being sacrificed as a burnt offering and that he was participating in that offering through the total surrender of his life for the advance of their faith and that he rejoiced because of that suffering. Not in spite of that suffering. Not even in or during that suffering but because of that suffering.

Last week I met with Pastor Robertson of Cornerstone Bible Church in Fort Ann. We were talking about all kinds of things and somehow the subject came up of some Iranians that we had worked with in Berlin. As I began to relate how God had worked in their lives and how that God had allowed us to be a small part, a drink offering on their sacrifice of faith, I felt the original joy and excitement all over again, how that God had used us to be a part of their spiritual new birth and growth. That, I think is the joy, that Paul is referring to here in this verse.

The example of Timothy (verses 19-23): He was a slave (verse 22) for the profit of others in Christ (verses 20-21). Now it was not true that Timothy was different than Paul. According to verse 20, they were “one-souled”, they were kindred spirits. Whatever we say about Paul’s character and lifestyle was true of Timothy and whatever was true of Timothy was also true of Paul.

“Wanted: Understudy for well-traveled but trouble-prone missionary. Must be able to suffer illness and hardship without complaining; to travel to distant countries and be separated from your loved ones for long periods of time; to teach and be taught; to evangelize, organize, and be flexible when nothing goes right. Must put up with low pay, long hours, high stress levels, and intense opposition. Often attacked, occasionally stoned, beaten weekly, frequently arrested. Interested applicants should contact the Apostle Paul” (from Ray Pritchard). Timothy was a single-minded slave of Jesus Christ who showed his loyalty to Christ by caring for others.

What made Timothy so special in ministry was his single-minded slavery. While everybody else had a lot of interests, he had only interest in the things of Christ Jesus.

Much of the weakness of the American church is not that we are involved in gross sin but rather that we divided in our minds, in our loyalty, in our service. We try to serve two masters but we fail and when we fail it is almost always Christ who gets the short end of the stick.

John Calvin wrote, “Involved in their own private affairs, people are the more negligent to promote the church, for it must necessarily be that one or other of two dispositions rules us. Either that overlooking ourselves we are devoted to Christ and the things that are Christ’s, or that too intent on our own advantage we serve Christ perfunctorily,”

The example of Epaphroditus (verses 25-30): He was sent (verse 25) for the service of others (verses 25b and 30). Epaphroditus is an example of what it means to minister, that is, one who does the work of Christ.

Like Timothy, Epaphroditus was cut of the same cloth as Timothy. Verse 17 tells us that Paul was poured out not only for the sacrifice but also for the service, that is, the ministry of their faith. Twice we find that Epaphroditus shared this same characteristic. He was a minister. This word for “minister” means “one who performs public service” with the connotation that he does this willingly, perhaps even at his own expense. There are a number of outward acts of service that we can perform for God. The picture is one of serving others as the primary way we have to do the work of Christ. How much work do you do for your Lord? Your answer depends on how much you serve others.

Believer, have you made God’s goals for your life, your goal? Are you striving for a blameless and harmless life or are you just doing the best you can? Are you focused on living a life that is free from grumbling and complaining? Are you trying to live in such a way that it exposes the crookedness of the world? Are you focused on submitting yourself as a sacrifice, as a slave, as a servant to the body of Christ? We should never wait until the Lord’s Table to evaluate our lives to see if we are blameless. We should enter those doors submitting ourselves to Christ, ready to work at serving others with our lives. We should wake up in the morning acknowledging that we will seek what is His and only what is His. Bow before Him now in your heart and submit yourself and everything and everyone you have totally to Him.

Next Week: Philippians 3:1-16 From Perfection to Imperfection Back to Perfection




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