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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at Life BPC 56th Anniversary Thanksgiving Service, 2006-10-22

Text: Philippians 2:16

On this blessed occasion of our Church's 56th anniversary this morning, I believe that it would be appropriate for us to focus our thoughts upon the words which were chosen 56 years ago to express what our main emphasis should be 'Holding forth the Word of Life.' This is taken from Philippians 2:16.

I. The Enablement for Christian Living (vv.12-13)

In order to understand what it means to hold forth the Word of Life we must look at the context in which this phrase is found. You will notice that v.16 is at the end of a long exhortation which begins in v.14. The main point is found in the first three words of v.14: 'Do all things'. What the words 'all things' here refer to, is found in the two preceding verses which talk about obeying the Lord (v.12 'Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence'). Paul wanted the Philippian Christians to keep on obeying God at all times. 

Dearly beloved, this is what your Christian life ought to be - you are to do God's will rather than your own will, and you are to please Him rather than please yourself in every aspect of your life - at home, at school, at work and even at play. Every true Christian finds his greatest delight in doing these things. If anyone claims to belong to Jesus Christ but he has absolutely no desire at all to obey God and please Him, there are serious doubts about how genuine his salvation is. This is because those who truly belong to God will have the Spirit of God dwelling in them. And the Holy Spirit will produce the willingness in them to obey Him and to please Him in every aspect of life. The Holy Spirit will also provide all the necessary power we need to do whatever God wants us to do. His divine enablement is the most essential ingredient for Christian living.

Earlier in this service we have witnessed one clear example of this: Those who made their profession of faith in Jesus Christ known to us this morning through being baptised or through reaffirming their faith in Him have done so out of personal obedience to God's Word. The Word of God commands those who are followers of Christ to be baptized and to confess their faith in Him publicly.

The faith that they had in Christ to save them has borne fruit of obedience. God has apparently worked in them to produce the willingness to obey Him. And so we give thanks to God for the work He has done in their lives.

Now perhaps there may be some others here who, like them, have accepted Christ as your Saviour and Lord some time ago, and perhaps even years ago, but you have not been baptized yet, or you have not reaffirmed your faith in Christ yet. If there is no real reason for this delay, you must ask yourself why you have not obeyed God yet in this matter. Why do you wait or hesitate to obey the Lord when you know what he requires you to do? If you say that you truly believe in Jesus Christ and that you have no doubts at all that He is your Saviour and Lord, then it should surprise you that you have not yet sought for baptism or reaffirmation of faith (assuming that you do know what God says about this in His Word). Dear friends, if this is true of you then something is obviously not right in your life, and you need to thoroughly examine yourself to find out why there is such strange reluctance or unwillingness in you to obey God. It may mean that you do not stand in a right relationship with Him, because God is apparently not working in your life.

The same principle also applies to every one of us here. If we are truly saved, our lives would manifest divine enablement for Christian living. V.13 of our text says, 'For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.' It is only as God works in you that you are able to 'work out your salvation with fear and trembling.' (v.12) You can only work out in your life what God works in. This, by the way, is the only way to live the Christian life successfully. Anyone who tries hard to live the Christian life without God's enablement will not succeed. You might be able to put on a false front for a while, but it will soon strain your will and and your power to your very limits! 

Dearly beloved, please understand that you cannot possibly live the Christian life as you should without God's work in your life, because He is your source of life and power to do all things. Jesus said that without Him we can do nothing: 'I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.' (John 15:5) Please ask yourself this important question this morning: Are you abiding in Him and He, in you? If you are not, please do what is needful now to have this restored into your life. You need His enablement in order to obey Him and do all things, including those that are mentioned in the exhortation in vv.14-16, which we shall now turn our attention to.

II. The Effects of Christian Living (vv.15-16)

Verse 15 begins by saying, 'That ye may be blameless and harmless.' To be blamles means that our life should be above reproach before the world. This is what all of us should aspire to become, since Christ has now become our Saviour and Lord. There should be nothing blameworthy in our life that can be used against us. What does it mean to be 'harmless'? It means that there should be no reason for anyone who knows us well to think that there is some evil thing about us that they must be very careful of whenever they are with us. The next part of the verse teaches us that these things are expected of those who are sons of God. Since we now have the wonderful privilege of becoming the sons of God by His mercy and grace, our lives ought to manifest the inward qualities, virtues and characteristics of God's dear children! There ought to be nothing at all in our character that will contradict our status as sons of God. This is the meaning of the words, 'without rebuke' in v.15. 

Perhaps some of us here may be thinking that these expectations are quite scary and even unrealistic. How can we fulfill all these expectations? Don't we sometimes fall when we are tempted and we make mistakes? Yes, we do. But we must not let these occasional falls and mistakes discourage us from pursuing our objective. As God works in us, we will not fall as often as we used to. We should be constantly striving with God's help to become what the Scripture says here 'blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke.' This is what the Bible calls sanctification, and it is His will for each and every believer.

And there is a very good reason why such expectations are imposed upon us. It is only as God's people are fulfilling them that others will be able to see Jesus Christ in them and be saved through Him. Why are we to be blameless and harmless? Because that is exactly what Christ is: He is blameless and harmless. Why are we to bear the likeness of God's sons? Because that is exactly what Jesus is - He is the only begotten Son of God. The ultimate aim of Christian living is therefore to exhibit Christ to the world.

And I would like to suggest to you now that this is what it means to 'Hold forth the Word of Life' (v.16) - It is not merely holding forth the Bible, which is the written Word of God, but more importantly, it is holding forth the Living Word - which is Jesus Christ! I think many of us know that Christ is called 'The Word' (which is 'logos' in Greek). This is one of the most profound names given to Him. John's Gospel begins by saying, 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.' (John 1:1). John's first epistle also begins in a similar manner: 'That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life' (1 John 1:1)

Christ is that Word of Life that we are to hold forth or exhibit fully by our life and our words, so that He may draw all men unto Himself (John 12:32). And the action implied by the words, 'Holding forth' is that of presenting and even offering Him to men. We do well to present the Gospel to sinners by telling them about the good news of salvation through Christ. And that is being done in the evangelism and missions efforts of our church. But that alone is not enough to hold forth the Word of Life. We do well to study the Scriptures intently, interpret it correctly, and expound it systematically. And that is being done in the teaching and preaching ministry of our church. But that alone is not enough to hold forth the Word of Life. 

We must also present Christ fully and accurately by our Christian living, by having our lives fully conformed to the glorious image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). This, dearly beloved, is the way for us to fulfill the words of our church motto 'Holding forth the Word of Life.' It requires nothing less from us than the diligent cultivation of all the virtues and characteristics of Christ in our life - including His love, His faith, His righteousness, His goodness, His meekness and His compassion. This must become the aim of everyone here! 

Do you know what is the best compliment that any Christian can ever hope to receive from others? 'I can see Jesus Christ in you.' Dearly beloved, if someone has said this to you before, you can thank our gracious heavenly Father for enabling you to fulfill what He expects of you. You must have exhibited Christ in your character, for anyone to say that to you. You must have been blameless and harmless, a child of God without rebuke for anyone to say that to you. You must have held forth the Word of Life, for anyone to say that to you. But please don't become complacent after that, because you may easily lose the likeness of Christ if you are not careful. And if no one who is close to you is convinced by the way you live, that Christ is in you, since they cannot see even the slightest resemblance of Christ in your life, then you have every reason to be most concerned and even worried about yourself. It means that you are not what you ought to be. 

It would also mean that you are not shining as a light of the world. You are not fulfilling this unique role that Jesus Christ has assigned every believer to fulfill. In Matthew 5:14-16 Jesus said, 'Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.'

In today's church weekly you will see 9 printed testimonies of salvation. These were written by those who were baptised, reaffirmed their faith or transferred their membership this morning. In many salvation testimonies like these you will often find that what encouraged the person to come to know Christ was that he had a Christian friend who told him about the Gospel, and he saw something different in his life - there was something wonderful about this friend's character and disposition that led him to seriously consider the claims of Christ, and eventually to become a Christian. It was the light shining in his friend's life that guided him to find salvation in Christ, who is the true Light of the World (John 8:12). 

III. The Environment that Needs Christian Testimony

Dearly beloved, let us be shining Christians as v.15 says. Your light must shine before the world! The world needs your light because it is full of darkness. It is described in v.15 as a 'crooked and perverse nation.' This indicates that we are not talking about a physical darkness, but a spiritual and moral darkness - the darkness of sin, pride, immorality, ungodliness and wickedness.

Darkness has always been used by man to represent all that is bad, corrupt and evil. Crimes and evil deeds are often committed under the cover of darkness. Darkness often hides unknown dangers that may cause great hurt to the unwary. In the same way, the darkness of sin that has engulfed the whole world hurts unwary souls with death, decay and destruction. Just look at the wars, violence and bloodshed in many countries today. Think of the countless lives that are destroyed by conflicts and terrorism. Think of the millions of babies that are killed every year through abortion. And think of the fact that despite the tremendous increase of knowledge and technology, and efforts to change and reform society in our present age, immorality and permissiveness are increasing at an alarming rate. Moral values are steadily losing ground, and there are no more absolutes. The world that we dwell in is definitely more than ever before, a 'crooked and perverse nation.'

The need is therefore very urgent. Something needs to be done! What should we be doing about this? Verses 15 and 16 tell us that we ought to 'shine as lights in the world, holding forth the Word of Life.' Is that what you are doing now? Or have you been making Christ more obscure to the world by living in a worldly and selfish manner - no different from the way your unsaved friends are living? Does your manner of life in any way contradict the gospel message that God wants you to proclaim? If it does, then you must put things right, for you cannot go on like this. If God has so marvelously saved you out of this world's darkness, how can you go on presenting a rotten testimony of His grace to the world?

IV. The Encumbrances to Our Christian Testimony (v.14)

This has sadly been a problem of Christians in every age. Instead of shining brightly as lights and holding forth the Word of life, things are done which actually hinder or encumber our testimony for Christ! Such things were happening even at the time when the apostle Paul wrote his epistle to the Philippians. 

Look now at v.14 and you will see what the problem in the Philippian church was: 'Do all things without murmurings and disputings.' Apparently there were interpersonal differences between church members, which had caused them to murmur against one another and even dispute with one another. Let us look also at Philippians 2:3-4 'Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.' There was obviously a spirit of self-centred pride and conceit among some of the Philippians church members, and this created a spirit of disunity within the church. In chapter 4, verse 2, two members are named - Euodias and Syntyche - as Paul pleaded with these two ladies who had laboured with him in the Gospel to settle their personal differences so that they may be of the same mind in the Lord. 

The Philippian church is not the only church that had such problems encumbering its Christian testimony. Every church in every age, and even those that were foremost in promoting the Gospel have their Euodiases and Syntyches. But God expects every church in every age to work on settling such problems well so that the church's testimony before the world will not be damaged. Whatever murmurings and disputings there may be should be replaced with Christian virtues like brotherly love, forgiveness and forbearance, mutual care and concern for one another. 

It is my prayer that all of us here in Life Church will work together toward this. A month ago we started the W.A.R.M. programme and our objective for this is to become a church that is 'United in Christ's love, actively ministering one to another.' What a blessed day it will be when any visitor who walks into this church and been here for long can soon sense the love of Christ being shared among us in such great measure that he will long to know how he can experience Christ's love in his own life! Let us therefore consider this to be partand parcel of our calling to hold forth the Word of Life to the world.

Let me conclude this message by directing our thoughts now to the key to realizing this objective: It is by having the mind of Christ in us. Each of us must make a firm commitment to cultivate the mind of Christ, as vv.5-8 tell us 'Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.'

Unlike us, the Lord Jesus never murmured nor complained at any time; neither did He ever do anything through strife or vainglory. But He humbled Himself by leaving His heavenly glory to take the form of a lowly servant. He did this by living on earth as a man for 33 years. And Christ humbled Himself even more when he died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins about 2,000 years ago. And to this day His death on the cross stands as the only way to remove the sins of sinners. 

Perhaps there may be some of you here who have not yet realized your great need to have Jesus Christ in your life. If that is in your thought this morning, I must tell you why you need Him most urgently. It is because whether you like it or not, the day will come when you will have to stand before God your maker, and be judged by Him. And as long as there is sin in your life, the only place where you can spend the rest of your eternity is Hell, where all sinners will have to bear terrible unending punishment. The Bible tells us however that 'God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.' (Romans 5:8) 

Dear Friends, the only way to be spared from eternal death in Hell is to trust fully and completely in Jesus Christ to save you. When you do this, all the benefits of His death are yours. This is the only provision that God has made to take away your sins. Will you come to Him right now? Please do not leave this worship service without repenting of your sins and trusting in Christ to be your Lord and Saviour. Why should you delay coming to Him now when you know that without Jesus in your life, you will certainly die in your sins? 

For the rest of us here who have already made Christ our Lord and Saviour, we too must give a proper response to this message. We have seen that God wants us to shine as lights, holding forth the Word of life to a lost and dying world. The only way we can do this is by making Jesus known through the words we speak to others, and through the life that we live before others. 

So while we rejoice and give thanks to God today for the 56 years that He has given to Life Church, let us now lay aside every sin and every encumbrance from our life and do much more to hold forth Christ, who is the Word of Life! The world needs to see Christ. The only way they can see Him is when we, His Church, hold Him forth in all His perfection, loveliness, and glory - both by our life and by our words. And may we always be ready to witness for the Lord Jesus Christ whenever there is opportunity.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11