The Expository Files

Lights in the World

Philippians 2:15

Some suggest that we in America today are living in a "post-Christian culture". I think this may be sadly accurate. The old norms, once held sacred by society at large, are no longer held by the majority. For example, it has been determined that recently, for the first time in history, more children were born to unmarried women than to married women in our nation. A very large number of those were not accidents. Many single women are opting to conceive. Most of these say that they would marry "if the right man came along" but since they have not met such a man, and since they want children, they will accept a man as the father of their child but not as their husband.

What we are dealing with here is a very basic principle taught in God's book having to do with marriage, family, children and sexual morality that has been cast aside by our culture. And our culture is not even neutral in this regard. From tax laws to entertainment, people are encouraged to adopt this new way of thinking, and mocked as "old fashioned" or worse if they take a Biblical stand.

But this is just one example of many that could be cited as evidence that we are becoming increasingly more pagan in our beliefs and practices. We could also point to the popularity of New Age religions, astrology and other forms of the occult, acceptance of deviant sex as an "alternate lifestyle" instead of sinful, and other hot topics such as these. Additionally, there are powerful men and women in our society that reject God, being purely humanistic. They run TV networks and news organizations, shaping attitudes in society.

So, what does a Christian do? Does he wring his hands? Hide? Worry? I believe he does the same things as Christians did in the first century, for there is no discernible difference in their living in a "pre-Christian" culture and our living in a "post-Christian" culture. Roman and Greek culture consisted of paganism, intellectualism, hedonism, materialism, and immorality. Christians were instructed to appear as "lights in the world" in the midst of a "crooked and perverse generation" (Philippians 2:15). So must we.

Work Out Your Own Salvation
Before we can be a light to the world, we must be lit. The Bible says we are to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling." (Philippians 2:12). This means to treat the salvation of the Lord with deep respect. This would involve us removing beams from our own eyes so we may help another remove the speck in his eye (Matthew 7:1-6). This passage in often misused to say that we ought to never judge another. That is not what Jesus says, but rather, to first set our own house in order.

With "Fear and Trembling"
The concept of "fear" in relationship to God and salvation is not very popular today, but it is a part of our salvation. Many have a very diluted concept of the fear of God if they have any concept of it at all. This is unhealthy; as unhealthy for us spiritually as it is unhealthy physically for a child to have no fear of fire, or deep water, or some other serious situation. Jesus certainly taught "the fear of the Lord" (Matthew 10:28).

Without the proper awe of God and His word, it is unlikely that we will make a serious effort to "work out (our) salvation." We may become apathetic, neglectful or compromising as we make excuses for our lack of adherence to our Lord's words. The problem today, more often than not, is not that people are too fearful of disobeying God, but not fearful enough.

Letting God Work In Us
To be lights in the world, we need to allow God to do His work in us (Philippians 2:13). The Bible teaches that God is willing to do things with us that are beyond our ability to comprehend (Ephesians 3:20,21). He gives us motivation, direction and assistance as we seek to carry out His will. We can do all things through Him who strengthens us (Galatians 2:20; Philippians 4:13).

Without Murmuring or Disputing
Another key to being a light is maintaining a positive attitude (Philippians 2:14).. There is an anti-prospering commercial which advises "Don't let them see you sweat." Don't let the job interviewer know you're nervous and so forth. To us, the idea would be not to let the world intimidate us. If we are constantly moaning and complaining, our light will be very dim. It was murmuring that led to Israel's downfall (1 Corinthians 10:10-12). Unity among brethren is an important factor in this as well (John 17:20-23; 1 Corinthians 3:1-4).

As Children of God Above Reproach
Being a light means I will have to be "blameless and innocent" as a child of God (Philippians 2:15).We are not perfect, but we can press on toward perfection. This would involve confessing and repenting of our sins and mistakes (1 John 1:8-10). We should live in such a way that our lives are examples of the good qualities of discipleship; love, joy, peace, endurance, faith, knowledge, self control and so forth. Nothing will hinder our being lights in the world more than hypocrisy or inconsistency.

Holding Fast the Word of Life
Being a light means we hold fast to the words of the New Covenant (Philippians 2:16). The word of God is the "sword of the Spirit" and we should be willing to use it. It is the only "offensive weapon" in the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17). I am not to use fatefulness, evil speaking, gossip. Neither do I use human creeds, traditions and opinions. This would snuff out my light. But to boldly hold forth the word of truth is nothing to apologize for. Be a light! The dark world needs more light.

Editor's note: This article is based on some thoughts presented in an outline by my friend, Mark Copeland.

Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 10.9, September, 2003