Robert Jeffress - Godly Living In A Godless World
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". Have you ever wondered why so many Christian students fall into the ways of the world once they start college? Perhaps you find it hard to stay strong in your faith when you're with non-Christian colleagues at work or in a group of gossiping friends. You see, godly living is much more challenging when you're surrounded by ungodly influences, which is why Paul outlined four important principles in Philippians 2 for remaining obedient to God. My message today is titled "Godly Living in a Godless World" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
It was Dr. E.M. Blalock, the professor of classics at Oakland University, who said, "Of all of the centuries, the 21st century is most like the first century. Once again Christians are a small minority in the midst of a despairing and pagan world, and they are confronted on every side with violence, hostility, ignorance, widespread immorality, and essential despair. We are thus thrust back into the very climate of the first century". It doesn't take the words of a learned professor for us to realize that we are living in a perverted, chaotic world in which we as Christians are a shrinking minority. And yet, in spite of that, Jesus said we are to be light and salt in a dark world that has lost its thirst for God.
How do we go about doing that? Well, Paul's going to tell us in the passage we're going to look at today. If you have your Bibles, turn to Philippians 2, beginning with verse 12, as we talk about the keys to living a godly life in a Godless world. Philippians 2. Look at verse 12. "So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and with trembling". Would you underline that phrase, "Work out your salvation"?
People read this, specially Southern Baptists, and they get all nervous. Whoa, work out your salvation? Is Paul teaching some strange new doctrine here? Of course not. Paul would never contradict himself. The foundation of his ministry was the belief that salvation was by grace, not by works, or even a mixture of grace and works. In Ephesians 2:8 and nine, he said, "For by grace we have been saved through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast". In Galatians 1:8, he said, "If anybody preaches another Gospel to you," and the Gospel he had in mind was the Gospel of faith and works, Paul said if somebody claims that an angel from heaven comes and preaches another Gospel, a Gospel of faith and works, let that person be a curse, anathema, let him be damned.
Now Paul did not hesitate when it came to proclaiming the Gospel. In fact, what made Paul's message different, by the way, what makes our message different from any other world religion is the belief that salvation is only through faith in God's grace. I don't care what the religion is, whether it's Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Mormonism. They're all the same in this respect, that it's not enough to have faith in God's grace, it's faith plus works. It is a different Gospel.
Now Paul's not talking about working for our salvation, verse 12, but he does say, "Work out your salvation". And that phrase work out was actually a Greek term that was used to refer to working a mine for the gold or silver, or working a farm to yield the best crop possible. And that's what he's saying about salvation, we don't work for salvation but we do work it out, that is, we yield the best results we can from it, and that requires effort.
Now listen, there's some strange teaching out there in the church that says, oh you can't live the Christian life. Let God live it in you. Don't get all excited, don't work, just relax, let go and let God. Listen to me this morning. If you take that kind of passive attitude about the Christian life, your life will become overgrown with sin, slothfulness, and bad habits. You can't work for your salvation, but you have to work it out. It takes effort to be obedient to God. Let me just get real specific if I can what I mean by working out our salvation.
You can pray all day, oh God, help me to know your word better. But you're the one who has to set the alarm clock earlier 15 minutes every day and get some blanket victory in the morning. You have to do it. Or you can pray all day, oh Lord, I wanna know you better through prayer, help my prayer life. You're the one, though, who has to say no to that extra television program so you can have time to pray. You can pray all day long, oh God, give me success over temptation, but it's your feet, not God's feet, that have to run away from that tempting situation. It takes effort to live the Christian life.
1 Timothy 4:7, it is Paul who said, "Discipline yourselves for the purpose of Godliness". That word discipline is the word we get gymnasium from. You can almost smell the sweat all over that verse. Discipline yourself, work hard at it, work up a sweat, learning how to be godly. It takes discipline to live the Christian life. I read a great definition of discipline one time. Discipline is, number one, doing what has to be done, number two, doing it as well as it can be done, number three, doing it when it needs to be done, and number four, doing it that way all the time. That's discipline.
Jerry Bridges, formerly with the navigators, said, "We Christians may be very disciplined and industrious in our business, our studies, our home, or even our ministry, but we tend to become lazy when it comes to exercising our own spiritual lives. We would much rather pray, Lord, make me godly, and expect God to pour some Godliness into our souls in some mysterious way. God does in fact work in a mysterious way to make us godly, but he does not do this apart from the fulfillment of our own personal responsibility. We are to train ourselves to be godly". And that's what Paul was saying here. Work out your own salvation. We have a responsibility for obedience.
Now just hearing may have already made you tired. You might say, oh man, I'm not sure I'm up for that. Well, before you get discouraged, understand that Paul not only gives us a responsibility for obedience, he reminds us that we have a resource for obedience. A supernatural resource, look at verse 13. "For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure". I like the way that Philip says it. "For God is working within you, giving you both the will and the power to achieve his purpose".
Well, you notice here there are two workers? In verse 12 we are to work our salvation, but while we're working it out God is working in us. God right now is giving you two things. First of all, he's giving you the will to do his will, the desire to do his will. Let me ask you this morning. Is there something in your heart that makes you wanna be a better husband, a better wife? Is there something inside of you that makes you want to say no to sexual immorality? Is there something in your life that just wells up when you sing the songs that we sang together this morning? Is there something inside of you that makes you want to know what God's will is for your life so you can follow it? Those desires didn't come from yourself.
In fact, our natural desires are opposite of God's. If you have that desire to know God and please God, it's God who's placed those desires within you. God is at work within you, giving you the desire, but also, notice verse 13, he gives you the power to work for his good pleasure. He gives you the supernatural resource for obedience.
Let me use this illustration if I could. We see all of these lights illuminated around us. What is it that powers these lights? Somewhere miles away, TXU has a power generator, an electric generator. I don't know where it's located, but that generator is whirring around right now generating electrical power. But it really doesn't matter what would be happening miles away from here, that would have no effect on us, it would have zero power to those lights, if there were no power lines that carried the electricity from that power-generating place right into our church and to illuminate those lights.
And it's the same way in our lives, listen to me. God has given every Christian not a power but a person. He's the Holy Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit is right now inside of your life generating a desire and an ability to obey God. But there has to be something to connect God's power inside of you to every area of your life. There are two conductors, if you will, two power lines that flow between the Holy Spirit into the different areas of our life so that God's power can influence us. Notice on your outline, conductor or power line number one is the Word of God. One way that God's power is carried from the Holy Spirit into every area of our life is through the Word of God. Hold your place here and turn over to the right a few books, 1 Thessalonians 2. 1 Thessalonians 2:13. Paul reminds the Thessalonians of why God was doing the supernatural work in them, and it was through the Word of God.
Look at 1 Thessalonians 2:13, Paul writes, "And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you receive from us the Word of God's message you accepted it not as the word of men but for what it really is, the Word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe".
Notice the three responses the Thessalonians had to the Word of God. First of all, they respected the Word of God. That is that they recognized that the Word of God was different than any other word out there. They believed that the Word of God was truly God's inspired message. And by the way, that's again what makes Christianity unique from other religions, its belief that the Bible is God's complete and final revelation. We believe that this book is the inspired inherent Word of God. And if you're going to experience God's supernatural work in your life, you have to have that kind of respect for God's word. But, quite frankly, you can argue about the inherency of the Bible all you want to, but it doesn't do you any good as long as it sits on your shelf, okay?
Secondly, the Thessalonians, they not only respected but they received the Word of God. Verse 13, "You received from us". In their day, they listened to it from the apostle Paul. Today, we read it in the Word of God. But the point is for God's power to do a work in your life you have to be reading the Word of God.
And then, finally, they responded to the Word of God. Verse 13, "It is the Word of God which also performs its work in you who believe". God's power is only going to work in your life to the extent that you respond to, you obey what God reveals to you through his word. Do you long to see God work supernaturally in your life? Do you want to have victory over sin in your life, the ability to break that habit, to change that relationship that is destroying you? One way God's power flows into your life and does a work in your life is through the Word of God. But there's a second power conductor, a second power line that God uses to transfer his power to our lives, and that is through prayer.
Listen to the words of Romans 8, verses 26 and 27. "And in the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the spirit is, because he intercedes for the saints according to the will of God". I don't pretend to understand all that these verses mean, but what I do understand is this, that when I pray, in some mysterious way, what were two wills becomes one will. That's what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus said, "Father, if it's in your will, let this experience pass from me". But then he said, "Not my will, your will, be done". And that night 2,000 years ago, two wills became one. And when we pray, the same things happens in our life. God's desires become our desires, and that clears the way for his power to become our power.
You see what's going on here in Philippians 2:13? There are two workers. We are to work out our salvation knowing that God is working in us. Justification, being made right with God, is God's work alone. But sanctification, our becoming more like Christ through obedience to him, that is a joint effort, it's a joint responsibility, between God and us. Why are we to spend the energy to live obediently? He's told it's our responsibility to do it. He's reminded us of our resource to do it.
Number three, notice Paul's reason for living an obedient life. He begins the discussion in verse 14. "Do all things without grumbling or disputing". That's convicting, isn't it? Grumbling, murmuring isn't an outward loud complaint. Instead it's that under the breath, mm m m m m mm m m m mmm m m m m. It's what you do at your job. It's what you do in traffic. It's what you do in church. Make no mistake about it. God hates grumbling and he hates grumblers. In fact, you look in the Old Testament. The children of Israel, they were professional grumblers. They were grumbling all the time. They grumbled at the Red Sea. They grumbled at Marah when the water turned bitter. They grumbled against Moses and Aaron. And what did God do with that mumbling? Oh, did he say, that's just the way you Israelites are. Ha-ha. No. 1 Corinthians 10:10 says, he destroyed them in the wilderness because of their grumbling.
Why does God hate grumbling so much? One reason is it's a sign of ingratitude toward God. In Exodus 16:8, Moses said to these children of Israel who were grumbling, he said, "Your grumbling's not against me, it's against the Lord himself". When you murmur and complain, what you're really saying is, God, I don't think you know what you're doing. I don't like the way you're running the show, I could do a lot better job if I were in charge. And God hates that. It's a sign of ingratitude. But another reason God hates and judges grumbling is because it pollutes the minds of other Christians. It robs them of their joy when they listen to your complaints, especially in the church. And God won't let that go unpunished. Grumbling spreads like a disease, like a cancer that infects people within a business, a home, or even a congregation.
And notice what Paul says here in verse 14, he says, "Do all things without grumbling". He's talking about your job. He's talking about your homework. He's talking about the chores around the house. He's talking about your ministry here in the church. He's even talking about your commute to work every morning. We're to do all things, why is that? What's the benefit? He says in verse 15, "So that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world".
The reason God wants us to live obediently, by not grumbling or disputing but by obeying him, is so that we can stand out in this dark world that has lost its thirst for God. And why does God want us to live distinctively, to live glory to ourselves? No, he says in verse 15, "So that you can appear as lights in the world". God doesn't want us to have a little bitty teeny light, a night light. He wants us to have a big light, and that's what happens when we live obediently. When we stand out and live a distinctive life, it causes God to be glorified. But notice the phrase added in verse 16. "Holding fast the word of life". The word of life is God's word. We're to hold it out when we're living this obedient life.
When somebody comes to you and says, "You know, I see that you live differently than other people in this office, or there's something different about your life. Can you explain what that is"? 1 Peter 3:15 says we need to be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks us for the hope that is in us. It is combining our obedience with the truth of God's word. "Among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life". The reason for our obedience is to lead people to Christ. But would you notice also Paul talks about the reward for obedience. Verse 17, the reward for obedience. He says, "But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice in service of your faith, I will rejoice and share my joy with you all. And you too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me". What Paul is saying is, "I am willing to go through temporary discomfort because I believe there's an eternal reward for doing so".
And if you don't hear another word I say, I want you to hear this word because it's so important. There is a cost to living an obedient life. All who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution, the Bible says. It's going to cost you to live as a Christian. It may cost you that promotion at work. It may cost you harmony in your home. It may cost you a temporary satisfaction in some area of your life. It's going to cost you to live an obedient life. But Paul said, "I'm willing to go through that temporary discomfort, believing that God will more than compensate me for it in the life that is to come".
I remember reading about this story of a man who is trudging through the desert. He'd gone three days without any water but he was revealed to see right in the middle of the desert he stumbled upon this well. And next to the well there was a small plastic jug of water, and there was just a few drops of water in it. And next to that jug was a sign. The sign said, "Pour these drops of water into the pump to prime the pump. The well is deep enough to provide more water than you could ever want. And when you have finished drinking, fill the jug up for the next traveler". Well, the traveler was faced with a choice. Do I take that little water, those few drops, and partially satisfy my thirst? Or do I take a chance, do I take a risk, and obey what the sign says, pour that water down the well, believing that there's more water there than I could ever need or want?
Christians, you and I are faced with the same choice. Do we go for partial satisfaction in this life, doing what we want to do, disobeying God? Do we go for partial satisfaction, or do we trust what the Word of God says, that if we are willing to suffer temporary discomfort there will be eternal satisfaction? There is a reward for obedience. Paul said it this way in 2 Timothy 2. He said, "For if we die with him, one day we shall live with him. If we endure with him, we will one day reign with him". That's the reward for obedience to Christ.