Beth Moore - Shining Like Stars in Deepening Darkness - Part 1
You may be seated. And would you turn with me to Philippians chapter 1. Our scriptures are going to be coming out of about midway through chapter 1 to about midway through chapter 2. I want you to glance at it, and I want to give a little bit of background for it first of all. So, we'll turn to Philippians. I'll read just the first couple of verses that say this: "Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus: To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ".
All right, I want you to know with me... in fact, you're in Philippians, and I know you just got there, and it's where we will stay throughout. I mean, there'll be very few exceptions of when we turn away from it, but I want you to see where this whole saga begins with the church in Philippi in the book of Acts. So, turn with me to Acts chapter 16. I think it's especially worth it because we are women, and we're going to see something really, really wonderful in Philippi that has to do with a woman.
So, Acts chapter 16, if you don't mind going there with me, and I want to start reading at verse 6, and I'm going to read, let's see, down to verse 15. So, 6, so this is Paul and the little group that is with him, and it says in verse 6, "They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia; they had been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. When they came to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them". Is anybody else so fascinated by that? And don't you want to know, like, did he say it out loud? Did he give it in a dream? How did he convey? Did he convey it like he would convey it to us perhaps?
Which would not be audible, at least for me it's never been, or in any kind of a vision that I could see, like, right before me in living color, but to make something so known in my spirit that I had some kind of repelling from an area and thought, "I'm not supposed to do that"? I don't know. I don't know. It seems so definite because they literally are moving their plans to go here. Some of those places, they will go back to, but for whatever reason, that was not the time. So, the Spirit of Jesus was, like, turning them, right? Like, I want to be led like that. I think you do too. I want to be in tune enough with the Holy Spirit that when I'm supposed to take a right, I know to take a right. If I'm supposed to stop and turn around, I wanna know to stop and turn around. I don't hear like that all the time, but I want to.
And it's so fascinating here, and it says in verse 8, "Passing by Mysia they went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision in which a Macedonian man was standing and pleading with him. 'Cross over to Macedonia and help us!'" So, there is this cry for help: "Cross into Macedonia and help us". Verse 10, "After he had seen the vision, we immediately made efforts to set out for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them". In other words, the biggest help they knew to bring was the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and indeed it is.
Verse 11, "From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight through Samothrace, the next day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi", that's our town, "Philippi, a Roman colony and a leading city of the district of Macedonia. We stayed in that city for several days. On the Sabbath day we went outside the city gate by the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and spoke to the women gathered there. A God-fearing woman", this is verse 14, "A God-fearing woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, was listening. The Lord opened her heart to respond to what Paul was saying. After she and her household were baptized, she urged us, 'If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my house.' And so she persuaded us".
You are looking at Lydia. She not only is the very first convert in Philippi. She is the first convert in all of Europe. And so it's just the craziest thing to realize that as that fire began to burn for the gospel in parts of Europe, that it began through one woman and a little group that was around her. They were the very first ones to receive the gospel in Philippi and in Europe. So, with that in mind, he has been there, and now he is writing them a letter, because he's going to hope to go back, but he doesn't know if he'll make it or not, because he's in prison.
Now, I want you to go with me back to Philippians chapter 1. So, if you are new, you may not know that when these letters came, they were taken, they were hand delivered. Sometimes they'd be taken like a circuit, a circuit of cities where Paul would send this letter to this place, and then that traveler would go to this place and this place and deliver these letters, some of them in similar periods of time, others stretched out over a number of years of his ministry, but they were read to them out loud. And so what we're going to do right now, what I'm going to ask you to do, and you're welcome to look down at the page, but sometimes in a long passage, it's really good to do it where I'm looking straight at you or out at you, and you are receiving it. I'm gonna play the role of Paul, and you're going to play the role of the people of Philippi, the believers in Philippi, and let it just, like, come in and sink in. I'm gonna read out of the CSV.
Now, just so you know, because some of you are going to think, "Does she have all this memorized"? I am underway in memorizing Philippians, but I'm not as far as I'm going to go with you right now. So, please know, because you're going to question it, I'm also looking at monitors. Did anybody need to know that? So, I can see the words, even though you cannot. So, I'm going to read it to you, and I want-- let them fall in, because this is so vintage Paul. He is so extraordinary. What kind of person says these kinds of words, listen, listen, listen, listen, and means them? Means them. I mean, this dude's under the inspiration of the Spirit. He's out lying under the power of the Holy Spirit.
So, what kind of guy can say these kind of words? Listen carefully to it. I'm going to start in 1:21, and I'm gonna read all the way to 2:18, so listen carefully with me. The apostle Paul to the churches in Philippi. "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain. Now, if I live on in the flesh, this means fruitful work for me, and I don't know which one I should choose. I'm torn between the two. I long to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better, but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Since I'm persuaded of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that because of my coming to you again, your boasting in Christ Jesus may abound".
I wanna stop there for just a moment 'cause I want to tell you something. One of the things I love about studying scripture is finding these little wonderful, wonderful phrases that then become motivations for me, or goals for me, and one of them, and something about memorizing, because you can run right over it sometimes reading, but when you're trying to memorize passages, you're saying it over and over until those phrases are getting deeper and deeper. And I love that Paul said, "So that in my coming to you again, your boasting in Christ Jesus may abound". And I thought, "I want that to be me". I want that to be me so much. I want it to be that if I go serve somewhere, that when I leave, that your boasting in Christ abounded, that I mean, like, you were just like so into him when it was over.
That's how it's meant to be, and that's what he's saying. Then I'm gonna pick back up on 27. "Just one thing," he says, "as citizens of heaven, live your life worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you, that you're standing firm in one spirit, in one accord, contending together for the faith of the gospel, not being frightened in any way by your opponents. This is a sign of destruction for them, but of your salvation, and this is from God. For it has been granted to you on Christ's behalf, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are engaged in the same struggle that you saw I had, and now here that I have.
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, make my joy complete by thinking the same way, having the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather to the interests of others. Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, who existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead, he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even to death on a cross.
For this reason, God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, now not only in my presence, but even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good pleasure.
Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be pure and blameless, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world, by holding firm to the word of life. Then I can boast in the day of Christ, that I did not run or labor for nothing. But even if I am poured out as a drink offering on the sacrificial service of your faith, I am glad. I rejoice with all of you. In the same way, you should also be glad and rejoice with me". The Word of the Lord... somebody, say thanks be to God, the letter to the Philippians.
This is what we're building off of: Paul's ability to both suffer and succeed with the joy that he is inviting us into... and did you hear him when he talks about, "But I am persuaded of this, that I will continue on with all of you for your joy and progress in the faith"? Then we get to the end of the passages that we read together, and it's like, "I rejoice, and I am glad, and I want you to rejoice and be glad with me," that his ability to both suffer and succeed with joy in the Holy Spirit has everything to do with the verses in between. So, he brings it up for the first time in the text that we've been reading today in 1:25. We hear it again in 2:18.
So, here's what I'm suggesting to you. When we think to ourselves, "How in the world can I have my joy back"? When I think about the things that this season, this era of time on the world's calendar, on creation's calendar, known only specifically to God, and I think of the things most at risk for believers in Christ, I think, perhaps, at the top of the list is just simply our joy. And for a lot of us, I mean, we're committed enough that we're really, really trying to persevere, that, I mean, our faith may have taken a beating, but we're still in there in the faith.
Many of you may have been serving and you are still serving, but isn't it... when it comes right down to it, our joy that has been most at risk in this very messy and unstable era of time? What is it about Paul that is so exquisitely extraordinary? What is it about him? What is it... to go ahead and borrow from what will be our metaphor throughout our time together, what was it that made the apostle Paul shine so brightly? Was it his willingness to suffer? Was it his unstoppability? And he certainly was unstoppable. Was it his refusal to back down? Okay, was it his peace with dying? Was that what made him so extraordinary? His commitment to the truth, to the Old Testament scriptures, as well as what was under current inspiration through the apostles and himself. Was it his passion for Christ? We know that, of course, of course, it was that. Was it the way he would get back up every single time he got knocked down? Was it his endurance to relentless attack and criticism and persecution?
And we know that the answer is yes on all of those things, and all of them driven by his passion for Christ, but we have known about people who have been faithful in suffering and even faithful in martyrdom, and still wouldn't we say Paul is remarkable? And I ask you, why would we say that? Why would we get to the end of the book and still look back over it and go, "He really was remarkable," why? What was it about him? And I would present to you that I think it is his joy, not only his willingness to do all of those things. But, see, we could take on that kind of a martyr thing and be very self-sacrificing but do it completely joylessly. Does anybody know what I'm talking about? Oh, we could serve. Keep serving, not let up. We could get back up when we've been knocked down. But might we get up bitter? Might we get up just a little bit vengeful? Wasn't it his joy that just could not be stamped out no matter what? It wasn't just that he endured. It was that he did so somehow with his joy intact.
So, how in the world do we find that? If that was part of his undimmable brightness, his joy, I want that, and I think you want it too. And how do we activate it? Because it's come to us by way of our birthright in Christ. How do we activate it? How in the world do we sustain it and feed it? Remember that he says, "So that you will shine like stars". So, my suggestion to you is that all of this is building up to this brilliance, this effervescence, this light of believers that shows up in the darkness of the world, that all of this he's said so far is coming right into it, "that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world".
And so I wanna remind you who's writing. We're not just looking at what is written, but we wanna be reminded continually in Bible class who is writing and why would this have any particular significance to the person who is either dictating it to the secretary who's taking it down, or they're taking it down themselves. Why would it have special significance? Well, because Paul, and he's gonna say it in chapter 3 of this very book. We're just not gonna look ahead right now, that he's a Hebrew of Hebrews. I mean, everything in him, if you wanna know, I'd be like, "What's deepest in that blood, the blood of his father Abraham"? Anybody get that with me? I mean, you could not shake that out of him, and you couldn't shake it out of him to the very death, and God didn't want it shaken out of him.
As much as he was called to the Gentiles, to show the Gentiles the light of the Lord Jesus Christ, still he was to the last day a Hebrew of Hebrews and a Jewish rabbi that had been radically changed by an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ. So, keep that in mind, because it could not be more significant, coming from Paul or through Paul, that he is going to use a metaphor of shining stars. So, I wanna remind you, so you're gonna leave something here in Philippians, and you're gonna go with me to Genesis chapter 15. God has called Abram, I mean, like, out of a adulterous people. He calls this one man, says, "Go, I'm gonna send you away from your family. You're gonna take your wife with you, and you're just gonna go, and I'll tell you where. But this is what's gonna happen. I'm gonna bless you, and I'm gonna bless all the nations through you".
And it's what Paul in Galatians says he was preaching the gospel before him. That just messes me up. It's so fabulous. Messes me up. All the way back in Genesis chapter 15, already preaching the gospel, "because through you I will bring people to myself from every single nation and people group". So then in chapter 15 he tells him, he said, you know, "I'm gonna give you all of these descendants". Well, to date, nothing is happening for Abram, and nothing is happening with Sarah. And it says in verse 1 of Genesis 15, "After these events, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision". Now, I don't know if you like this kind of stuff or not, but it's the very first time the Word of the Lord, that's such an important phrase.
That is preparing us. That's a prophetic phrase. That is preparing us where, I mean, we sit up and listen. All of this is God-breathed, and it's all God's Word. But listen, we sit up for something prophetic when we hear the Word of the Lord came to so-and-so. First time in scripture, "The word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision. Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield. Your reward will be very great". And I love that, but it's so much better in the King James Version, where it says, "I am your exceeding great reward". I could tell you this: I don't know a lot, but I have lived long enough to know that of all the things that God does to bless us, the biggest prize is his presence himself. It's just him. It's just, at first, we first come to faith, it's all about what Jesus can do for us, and then after a while, we get to know him and go, "You know what I want you to do for me? I just want you to be with me. It's you that I want more than anything".
So, Abram says... and I love this about Abram, "Lord God, I mean, like, what can you give me? I'm childless here, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus". And Abraham continued. "Look, you have given me no offspring, so a slave born in my house will be my heir". In other words, "Like, this is what's gonna happen, because, I mean, you said this, and so it hasn't happened, and so now it's just gonna be, like, somebody else in my house". And it says, "Now the Lord came to him. 'This one will not be your heir.' And said, 'One who comes from your own body will be your heir.' And he took him outside and said..."
I love that God took him outside. I just, I don't think we're getting outside enough. Is that fair to say? I think we're just, like, stuck inside. I think our lives have gone on screen, and we've forgotten what it's like to be outside in the open air. And I love that it must be in the tent, him and the Lord in the tent, 'cause the Lord, and it's nighttime, and the Lord says, it says, "He takes him outside and says, 'Look at the sky and count the stars, if you were able to count them.'" And then he says to him, "Your offspring will be that numerous". Abram's just like staring up, at an unpolluted sky, and it says, "And he believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness".