[Note: In the middle of the sermon, Mat discovered there was an error with the printer leaving him with no sermon notes for the last half of the sermon. He makes a comment about the printer and asks for a Bible. After a minute or so of preaching his wonderful wife, Miranda, who was in the audience and had noticed her husband struggling, pulled up the sermon from Google Drive on her phone and gave it to him. Gratefully, he was able to finish the sermon as prepared.]
Philippians 2:12-18 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.
Good morning Grace,
We are preaching our way through Philippians. Today we find ourselves in the middle of the sermon series Pastor Mike has so aptly entitled Joyfully Following Jesus Together ‘till the End.
Frankly, that would be a perfect title for today’s sermon. As I’m sure it would be for many of the sermons preached from Philippians because we will hit on all of these points. Joyfully, we rejoice like Paul. Following Jesus, into his humility and exaltation. Together, as a church. Until the end, when we are exalted and given heavenly crowns.
Since that title was taken I’ve called this sermon Our Joyful Working is Worship.
Before we dive into this morning’s text, we must backtrack and understand that we are not stumbling across these verses in isolation. We didn’t just receive these verses in a tweet. If you’re just joining us this morning, we are at the end of a long train of thought that Paul has building since chapter 1 of his letter. So let’s quick refresh.
First, he’s addressing believers. That’s extremely important. He’s not teaching unbelievers how to become children of God. He is writing to the children of God, the church, as the Bride of Christ, not individuals, so as an audience they are secure in Christ.
Next, he magnifies the beauty and worth of Christ while in chains and facing is probable death. Still, he expresses how we are to rejoice in the face of persecution and trials.
The Philippian church is caught up in arguments and grumbling and Paul says, “You’re never going to advance the gospel that way!” So, he exhorts them to Christ-obedience and unity for the sake of God’s glory, and the watching world.
Then in verse 29, he says something astounding. Something so difficult it’s hard to comprehend. This is probably the hardest part about being a Christian, and why many reject the true gospel. He says, “If you live like the world, and you have their goals and their beliefs and their desires, and spend money on yourself to buy big houses and nice cars and fine clothes, God will be glorified all the more and the entire world will confess Christ as King!” No. He said the exact opposite. Paul said that “it has been granted to you, that for the sake of Christ, you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.” But people don’t want to suffer. That doesn’t make us happy! We want comfort and stuff. That makes us feel good.
This brings us to chapter 2 where Paul begins to describe what it looks like to imitate Christ. He says, Christ emptied himself, put on rancid human flesh, and became a selfless servant to all and God exalted him. And that’s God’s plan for his children as well. If they love him, he will exalt them with Christ. How we show our love? By obedience.
That is the exact opposite of the health and wealth message that has swept America and spreading across the globe—even being preached from thousands of pulpits this very morning.
This brings us to our text. There are many amazing points that Paul is trying to get at in these individual verses, but I will attempt to give you Paul’s main point over verses 12-18.
So if I say something really fast, don’t worry, it’s not the main point that I want you to take home. But it was relevant enough for me to say out loud. All of this is important but we have to be selective this morning.
Here’s what I believe it is.
God’s promise and power produce joyful worship for his good pleasure!
God works before we work. God works, then we work. It’s not the other way around. We don’t work so God will work. That produces discouragement and despair. The first way produces joy and faith!
I’m going to highlight three truths about God that Paul has in mind when exhorting us to good works. 1) God’s purpose is for his pleasure. 2) So, he gives us a promise and 3) the power to obey. The first is the foundation on which everything in these verses is built on, and the latter two, are pillars that brace or uphold up our good works, our participation in God’s plan and purposes for his world.
I. God Works for His Good Purpose and Pleasure
12 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence.”
How many of us would love to have kids that obeyed even better in our absence? Amen!
Since you’ve been doing these things, and have already done these things so well in my presence, please do them even better after I die.
“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”
“for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
Why? Why does he work? Why do we work? For his good pleasure!
Foundation: Your good works and will are for God’s pleasure
Why does Paul want us to live gospel-worthy lives? For the sake of others? Kinda. But that is not the main reason, and certainly not the reason he gives. First and foremost it is for God. Everything is built on this foundation. His good purposes are the reason we are on this earth in the first place.
Revelation 4:11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
Everything was created for God, other translations read, “for his pleasure!”
Psalm 135:6a “Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth…”
So, all of creation is for his pleasure and glory. And Paul tells his disciples, our aim as Christians is to please God (1 Thessalonians 4:1).
Following Christ isn’t you asking, “What do I have to do not to go to hell?” although we should ask that, rather, it’s asking, “How do I please God?” We were created for his pleasure. So it should be our aim to learn what pleases him. The beginning and end of our salvation is not us, but God—God’s plan, God’s purpose. His purpose is his pleasure, or our purpose is his pleasure.
See also John 17:24; Luke 12:32; 1 Corinthians 1:21
Everything we do is for God’s glory.
I recently had a conversation with somebody who said they heard a pastor say from the pulpit, “Here’s some news for you. Guess what? The Bible isn’t about God, it’s about you!”
Not only is that heart-breaking, and damning, but it is a direct contradiction of Scripture. The Bible is very clear who the Bible is about—and it is not you.
Isaiah 43:6a-7 “Bring my sons…and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory.”
Why were you created? Why were you called? We were created to do good works for his glory. Paul says…
Ephesians 2:10 “…we are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Jesus himself said,
John 15:16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide”
Romans 9 declares that he made his children as glory-bearing vessels to make known, to display, to pour out, the riches of his glory! We don’t tell the potter how we are to be shaped or how we are to be used. That was already decided beforehand by him for his pleasure!
And this is the powerful truth we find in Philippians in verse 13.
13 “for it is God who works…for his good pleasure.”
Everything in these verses is submitted to one paradigm-shifting, self-sacrificial truth. Everything was created by God and for God, to display his glory for his good pleasure. And nothing happens outside of his beautiful sovereign hand.
So, I hope you let Scripture reorient your hearts this morning—away from yourselves and on to Christ, the founder and perfecter of our faith.
God’s promise and power produce joyful worship for his good pleasure!
Then there are the second two truths about God’s work.
The two pillars in this text that our participation, our good works, our worship, rest upon. 1) The promise, which makes obedience a delight and 2) the power, which makes obedience possible. Apart from them, we would fail miserably.
Pillar 1: God’s promise of exaltation is motivation
12 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed … work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you”
The first pillar, God’s promise, is hidden in the therefore at the beginning of verse 12. However, it is essential to the meaning. Remember, verses 12-18 were not written in isolation. They are part of Paul’s logical flow. The results of the previous argument. That little therefore points back to its antecedent verses, which are 3-8: Christ’s humility, his obedience, his emptying, his becoming a servant. Jesus’ humiliation results in his exaltation, and similarly, our obedience results in our great reward—eternity with Christ.
This is the hope of the gospel. Someday, we’ll be with Christ.
Therefore is the link to these infamous words “work out your salvation.” Paul is saying, “Look! Christ was obedient and suffered, but he counted it joy! Why? Because God was going to exalt him above everything on earth and in heaven. So, if you humble yourselves and obey, even unto death, like me, you also will be exalted with Christ. And by the way, it will be joyful.” Eternal exaltation with Christ is a powerful motivation for Paul and he leans in on it!
Paul will say later…
Philippians 3:14-21 “I press on…for the prize of the upward call of God…[because]…our citizenship is in heaven, and…Christ…will transform our lowly [Disease reading, rancid flesh sack] to be like his glorious [holy, healthy, perfect, young, strong] body”
And it’s not just Paul, Jesus gave us this motivation as well and told us to have joy!
Matthew 5:12 “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great!”
In Hebrews 11, Abraham and Moses looked to their inheritance, gaining Christ, as motivation for their faith.
And of course, Paul tells us that God has already exalted us and seated us next to Christ!
Ephesians 2:5-6 “even when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places…”
He has done it and will complete it at our glorification. Already, not yet finished. This is the believer’s promise and command. You are holy, but live out your holiness. Paul is using Christ’s obedience as an example for us to follow giving us motivation to press on!
Jesus, knowing he would suffer, endured the cross anyway, because of the joy set before him! Joy is a powerful motivator and hope-giver. Christian follow the example of your leader, Christ. God has promised his children a great reward—exaltation. But it comes after great sacrifice—death. So, live all of life as a testimony to the gospel because this momentary suffering will be infinitely worth it!
Truly understanding this prepares us for suffering, which will come. And obedience is no longer a duty but a delight! Believing truths like this is what produces indestructible joy in the face of sacrifice and keeps us from idolatry in the face of abundance.
So, the therefore is God’s promise that his children will be exalted and serves as our motivation for our joyful working, which is then worship.
God’s promise and power produce joyful worship for his good pleasure!
Pillar 2: His power is our strength
The second pillar, God’s power, is our ability and strength to work out our salvation.
12 “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you”
We are able to obey because God is working in us. He is working all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). He guaranteed that he will bring that good work he began in you, the believer, to completion (Philippians 1:6). If that’s not assurance, I don’t know what is. God’s power is powerful enough to save you, and it’s powerful enough to sustain your joyful obedience.
Paul gives us all of these duties, commands, and pressure—deny yourself, die to yourself, sacrifice everything, live worthy of Christ—but he doesn’t leave us there. He gives us a promise and power. Motivation and the ability to carry it out. Isn’t that comforting? Without God’s power working in us we would lose faith and give up.
I love how Paul gives credit to God for everything he does. He says,
1 Corinthians. 15:10 “…I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”
Right after Paul says that he worked harder than anyone, he attributes all his work to God working in him. How comforting! You mean I don’t have to do this on my own?
God’s power enables and strengthens the believer in many ways. First, through regeneration, then by prayer, the ordinances, the hearing and reading of his word, fellowship and worship with other believers, serving others, evangelizing, and even suffering.
In regeneration, he saves and enables us to love him. He opens our blind eyes and regenerates our heart, replacing the heart of stone with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). Being able to see and hear the gospel changes our fleshly desires to God’s desires. He re-aligns our will and work for his good pleasure by the work of the Holy Spirit, and those other means of grace. He actually gives us grace to continue, which keeps us going to the next thing, and the next.
1 Peter 4:11 “whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”
Through this process, our minds and hearts are renewed and transformed and energized to serve him. We desire what he desires. He becomes our goal and pursuit.
Jesus told us apart from his power we can do nothing. Without abiding in Christ and his Word, we have no power. We must hold fast to the Word of Life if we are to have power.
John 15:5 “…Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
Knowing that we are weak and sinful, and unable, God works in us. He gives us a beautiful promise and the Holy Spirit’s power that enables and energizes our obedience, our humility, our servanthood, all for his good pleasure.
God’s promise and power produce joyful worship for his good pleasure!
II. Our Joyful Working is Worship
Now, we come to the second half—our joyful working. God works first, then we work.
There are three realities I want to highlight in regards to working out your salvation. 1) Our works are the fruit, not the root. 2) What a gospel-worthy life looks like to Paul. 3) Working is joyful worship.
1. Works are the Fruit not the Root
I want to be crystal clear, good works do not earn our way into God’s kingdom or make us a child of the king. God’s grace and mercy accomplish our salvation before we even love him (Romans 5:10).
Remember in the past how many denominations were marked by fundamentalism (which actually started off decently). They legalistically believed that certain activities were inherently sinful and could send you to hell. Like playing cards was a sin regardless of the game. Seeing a movie drinking alcohol was a sin, and so on. Well, now the pendulum has swung the other direction and people are in the other ditch. Little to no obedience to Christ’s commands. We are under grace has been translated, we can do whatever we want.
But that’s not what Paul means by grace and he preaches grace more than anyone. Just because we are saved by grace and not under the law, doesn’t mean we don’t obey. We were slaves to sin, now we are slaves to righteousness. Works do not earn credit with God like in Islam, they are an outward manifestation of our inward salvation.
Ephesians 2:8 is the goto passage for salvation by grace alone through faith alone, but notice what Paul says in verse 10.
Ephesians 2:10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
See the order? Not saved as a result of good works, saved for good works. Root then fruit.
Back in chapter 1 Paul reassured the Philippians that he wasn’t going to submit them to the bondage of the law, but that living godly lives is a matter of your eternal status.
Philippians 1:27-29 “…let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ…This is a clear sign…of your salvation, and that from God.”
Paul is abundantly clear that living a life worthy of the gospel is a sure sign of salvation, and that salvation was a gift from God. Otherwise, it becomes a sign of your destruction. Working out our salvation is working to the outside what God has done on the inside.
Jesus frequently used metaphors of plants yielding good fruit or bad fruit to illustrate this idea. A good root produces good fruit. The root of the tree is salvation. The fruit is our works done in the power of the Holy Spirit. If you have bad fruit, you better go to the root.
A Christian bears good fruit because Christ is their joy and treasure, not in order to earn a place among his ranks. Obedience and good works flow out of joy.
Holding season tickets to the Vikings doesn’t make you a fan. Holding season tickets is a result of your love for the Vikings. Paul tells the Philippians, “Hey, when I visit your house and all I see is Vikings stuff, and all you talk about is how the Vikings played, or who’s on or off the team. Nothing against the Vikings or anything but what’s up? What about your life screams, ‘I love Christ!’?”
Jesus put it something like, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
Obedience flows from a faith and joy in Christ. The King created his children for good works, not to become children of the King, but to live like them.
So, how do children of the king live?
2. The Fruit of a Gospel-Worthy Life
We’re gonna fly through our passage to get a picture of a Christ-exalting, God-glorifying life according to Paul.
In preparation for this sermon, I wrote down every attribute in the whole book of Philippians that Paul says marks the gospel-worthy life. It was a lot, 113, but I’m sure I missed some.
In our text alone, Paul gives us twelve characteristics of a gospel-worthy life. We can’t cover them all, but here are the major ones. Take these to heart and examine your life as we go through these traits.
• Gospel-worthy lives obey Christ
12 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed”
The Philippians are being obedient, and Paul is exhorting them to continue because an essential element of Christ-likeness is Christ-obedience. Jesus made it plain, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word.” (John 14:23)
See also John 14:23; John 3:36; 2 Timothy 2:4
• Gospel-worthy lives fear God
13 “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”
We work out our salvation out of respect and awe for the maker and creator of heaven and earth. The fear of condemnation, judgment, and death that unbelievers have disappears when we are in Christ. We are left not with a crippling fear, but a serious reverence and awe for God’s holiness and power and wrath. We are grateful we are on the winning side, but intentional to stay there. The author of Hebrews puts it so well,
Hebrews 10:28-29 “…let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.”
This is undoubtedly looking back to Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus. They were priests who offered unacceptable sacrifices on the altar and God immediately consumed them with fire.
God is not our personal genie to rub and have your wish granted. We don’t worship him fancy free anyway we’d like. We worship in Spirit and in Truth. He is jealous for his glory and desires right worship and obedience. The Christian life is, as my school motto states, serious joy.
See also Psalm 128:1; Psalm 111:10; Psalm 147:11
• Gospel-worthy lives do not grumble or dispute
14 “Do all things without grumbling or disputing”
This is so convicting for me. I must confess, yesterday, while writing this very section, my kids began arguing in the other room. I walked out, dealt with it. Came back in and sat at my desk and in frustration asked God, “Why are my kids acting like this!! I need to write my sermon! Argh! Can’t they just be quiet?!” I looked up, read this heading, and sighed. I can’t even make it through this sermon. God help me! I need your power. But let me tell you it has been very encouraging being in Philippians for the past couple weeks.
Paul says, in everything you do, no complaining! Wow. Any kids that are listening, can you imagine a day, an hour, without grumbling or complaining! God tells us to do that in every single thing we do. No air conditioning? No grumbling. No clean clothes? No arguing. Cancer? Rejoice! God is working in you, to perfect you, for his good pleasure!
Paul was intimately familiar with far worse than I’ve ever dealt with and he said, “…I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Thank you God, for supplying the power we need to live out your commands.
• Gospel-worthy lives are blameless, innocent, without blemish
15 “that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish”
Paul will say in chapter 3, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”
Blameless is straightforward and basically means living a life that an outsider can’t point to and say, “Ha! That’s who you really are! If that’s what Christianity is, I don’t want it!” Although, sometimes, they may say that just because they hate you.
Innocent means pure, undiluted, not contaminated. In first-century literature, this word described wine which is was undiluted or pure metals which contained no weakening alloy. They were unmixed, pure. We might use the word “holy,” or set apart from the world, unmixed with contaminants of the world.
James 1:27 “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
Without blemish or spotless. These words are used to describe pure and clean sacrificial victims, such as lambs or doves, as being holy and worthy of being sacrificed. And this is how Christ gave his life,
I Peter 1:15-19 “you also be holy in all your conduct…knowing that you were ransomed…with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”
Paul is quick to say in chapter 3, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, [it is his goal,] because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”
This is how Paul says we are to spend our lives and how he is pouring out his life as a sacrificial offering (Romans 12).
• Gospel-worthy lives shine as lights in a perverse world
15 “among whom you shine as lights”…”in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation”
Paul uses the word twisted or perverse to describe the world because they take the good things of God and warp them into sin. They pervert God’s good pleasures, into immorality, vileness, and evilness. Notice how we are called, not to escape them, not to hunker down inside our houses or move out into a remote area, but to live among them, so we can shine as glory-bearers in their midst.
When we display to a crooked and perverse generation that we value something greater than what they have, that we live for something greater than their messed up morality, they feel condemned and judged. We don’t even have to open our mouths. And that’s because they have just enough knowledge of God and morality to know they are wrong. But they suppress the truth so they can feel good about their lifestyle.
When you bear good fruit it will be seen as evil. When you save a baby’s life it will be seen as hurting a mother’s choice to have promiscuous sex—which they value above the precious life made in God’s image, because it reminds them of the wonders and glory of God. When you tweet a Bible verse it will be labeled hate-speech, and you may lose your job.
People love the darkness because they are wallowing in their sin and the darkness is their security blanket—hiding all their evil. They feel good and their friends are with them enjoying their sin.
You walk in and flick on the light switch, and what happens?
That bright light exposes all the people around you. They’re naked and depraved. One is stealing, one is committing adultery, another lusting, another in back corner committing murder. They all yell, “Turn off the light!”
Don’t be surprised when the world hates you, your light offends their senses and morals. When we live among them in a gospel-worthy lifestyle, we become beacons, lighting up their evil deeds. They will be shamed.
But remember this. People must feel the extreme weight and heinousness of their sin if they are to repent of it. Repentance and faith are the only means of salvation. And God uses your light and him word to convict them. So, one of two things will happen when their sin is exposed. 1) The Holy Spirit will convict them and they will feel horrible over their sin, they will repent and be saved, giving glory to the Father (Matthew 5:16). or 2) They will continue to love the darkness and remain under condemnation (John 3:19).
See also Isaiah 5:20; John 17:15-18; 1 Peter 2:11; John 17:16
• Gospel-worthy lives hold onto the Word
16 “holding fast to the word of life”.
The word of God is food for the hungry soul. It is what feeds and fuels believers. Without it, we shrivel up and eventually die. The word of God is life-giving and powerful and it will accomplish all of God’s purposes (Isaiah 55:11), including your obedience and salvation.
We constantly need that input. We are creatures of forgetfulness, needing a constant reminder of how great God is. When we read the Word we learn who God is and what he loves and hates.
Just sit down and read the entire book of Philippians slowly in your quiet time this week and take note of how God uses it to encourage you and build your faith! God will strengthen you to run the race with perseverance and joy.
The truths in the Word illuminated by the Holy Spirit are the transforming power and motivation to live in a dark and perverse world.
See also 1 Timothy 4:6; Matthew 4:4; Psalm 119:9; Luke 11:28
• Gospel-worthy lives sacrifice joyfully
17 “I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice”
We are talking about the fruit of the Spirit-filled life. So, what’s the second one? Joy!
Galatians 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…”
It doesn’t seem very joyful so far. But while we are living as sacrifices being burnt on an altar, we are called to rejoice! Trials, sacrifice, suffering, obedience, happiness, contentment, abundance, fruitfulness, in everything—it is God working in us to perfect us.
James 1:2-4 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Pain and joy aren’t antonyms. We can have pain and joy at the same time. Pain from the loss of a parent, yet joy from their gain heaven. Joy is the faith-filled Christ-like reaction to all of life’s circumstances. In all things, we are to have joy.
3. Good Works are Joyful Worship
Now, we are at my favorite part. Maybe because it’s the hardest, I don’t know. Good works done in faith, out of a love for God, are joyful worship.
Remember how Paul described his life in verse 17? He’s comparing his impending death and ministry for the Philippians to the OT sacrificial system.
17 “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.”
Paul says that’s the attitude we are to adopt! Joyfully enduring being sacrificed, to the point of death, emptying ourselves in order to serve others, out of a deep satisfaction in God, for God. That is NT worship.
Look at this. There are no Chrstians who are allowed just float through life, not getting on that altar, living like the world, loving the world’s stuff, and their system. All this sacrifice stuff is not just for super-Christians like Paul.
Look closely. Notice how he calls his life and ministry to them a drink offering. This was an additional offering, usually wine, that was poured out at the base of the main offering. Paul is telling the Philippians, the normal people in the pews, “You are the main offering. I’m the supplemental offering sealing your faith. Live so your life is a pleasing sacrifice to God, then you can rejoice! And then be glad with me that I’m also going to be poured out as an offering!”
The normal Christian life is a joyful sacrifice. Our time, our energy, our possessions and money, our family and kids, our job and retirement, all belong on the altar as a sweet smelling aroma to our King.
Paul pleads with us,
Romans 12:1 “…by the mercies of God … present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
We show God’s value and worth when we choose dying to ourselves and living for Christ over living for the world. When we love selflessly and pursue holiness and righteousness in Christ Jesus, this shows that God is glorious, and valuable, that he’s worth dying for. Therefore, he’s worth living for.
Jesus illustrated it like this.
Matthew 13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
There’s a deep joy and satisfaction in his purchase, that makes selling all he has no big deal. That stuff is rubbish. The surpassing worth of Christ makes our sacrificial worship a delight.
Psalm 16:11 “in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Forevermore! When this truth drives you working out your salvation for this God is a joy!
This how good works, work. Our inward salvation works out to the outside, and our life becomes an act of worship—everything in our life screams “Christ is my treasure!”
“Our obedience is God’s pleasure when it proves that God is our treasure. This is good news, because it means very simply that the command to obey is the command to be happy in God. The commandments of God are only as hard to obey as the promises of God are hard to believe. The Word of God is only as hard to obey as the beauty of God is hard to cherish.” ― John Piper, The Pleasures of God
When our lives are living acts of worship, and we are joyfully putting our treasure on display, God is massively glorified and pleased.
God’s promise and power produce joyful worship for his good pleasure!
We have two paths in front of us.
On one hand, we can pursue the pleasures of the kingdom of the world—filled with sensuality, and entertainment, and money, and clothing, and luxury, and fine food. But, after a short while, it leads to eternal agony and misery and torture without relief.
Or we can seek God’s kingdom, with endless eternal pleasures, luxuries, fine foods, comforts, no pain, no sorrow, and eternal life—plus, utter satisfaction in God and complete joy with Jesus forevermore.
It seems like an easy choice, but there is a catch.
Right now, the path to God’s kingdom is narrow and difficult and is a sacrifice. No one in their earthly mind would take it. It has very few people on it, most of them are weird, and it leads straight to our death on a bloody cross.
The worldly kingdom’s road, however, is wide with new black tar and easy and smooth, luxurious and entertaining with lots of cool and funny people having a grand old time. It makes the most sense to follow this road. And it leads straight to a beautiful castle with soft beds, free Netflix, and butlers.
To make the decision harder, unregenerate people are unable to see the destruction of the world’s way. And unable to see the glories of heaven and beauties of Christ beyond the bloody cross. Many attempt to believe, they try really hard because someone told them about Jesus, but eventually their false belief can’t sustain their journey without the Holy Spirit, and they jump back to the wide road.
Jesus warned (Matthew 7:13-14) that the easy wide road leads to death and many are on it. The narrow difficult path leads to life, but few find it.
This is what it looks like to work out your salvation. Not that you raised your hand or said a prayer one time in your life, but you continually choose to live on the difficult path of self-sacrifice. Taking up your cross and following Jesus to your death. And Paul said that it’s a sign of your salvation, or conversely, your destruction, which path you are living on.
Think back to our question. “How can I please God?”
1. Begin by reading the Word. Start in John and read through the NT. Make note of what God likes and dislikes, what he asks of you, and how he may want to be worshipped with your life. Maybe differently than you are now.
2. Pursue ways to serve God and people. Loving people more than God, is not loving God.
3. Think of this kingdom analogy often. Which kingdom are you serving, enjoying, pursuing?
Sin is any movement or desire shifted away from God as supreme, and toward the world’s kingdom. Saying, “I want what they have! I want the easy, the shiny, the pleasures now! I’m a good person, I deserve a good life. I’ve worked hard.” Everyone does it, everyone struggles with it. And Paul says, anything that doesn’t “proceed from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). Desiring and pursuing something more than God. Believing something is better than God is falling short of giving God glory with your life (Romans 3:23). When are we going to start trading our Netflix for the prayer closet?
We glorify God, we please God, by rejecting and renouncing that system and those desires. And the way we do that is by taking up our cross, as Jesus instructed (Matthew 16:24-25), and self-sacrificially inch toward our death serving others on the way—following Jesus all the way to the grave. And then we rejoice that we share in Christ’s sufferings when we are poured out as an offering, so we can also rejoice when his glory is revealed (1 Peter 4:13).
That other group will not be rejoicing when Jesus comes in glory.
Christian, I want to challenge you this morning with some tough questions. I encourage you to give them serious thought. If anything I have said is of the flesh let it burned up, and anything that is a word of life, may it produce fruit in your life.
- Do I have indestructible joy in Christ? Is Christ my treasure?
- Are my lifestyle and actions a holy sacrificial offering to God?
- Do my habits, money, time, entertainment, and beliefs say I treasure Christ above all?
- Are there things I love and participate in that directly contradict Scripture—that God hates?
- Am I on a narrow difficult path or am I on the wide road?
If you don’t know Christ this morning. You can’t answer any of those questions positively. You don’t treasure Christ, or find his ways delightful. But that can change. God can change you. This morning is your morning. You’re not promised the car ride home. We are all promised one thing. Death. Don’t let it be eternal! Cry out to Christ to change your heart, and open your eyes to see his beauty and he will exalt you. You’re not a good person, you don’t deserve exaltation. You’ve broken all his commandments. And apart from Christ, you deserve death. You deserve hell. There will be no innocent people in hell. Because everyone in hell has chosen to rebel against God and forsake his love and offer of salvation. Repent of your sins and commit your life wholly to Christ. Trust in him for your salvation. And Christ will exalt you and seat you next to Christ, and give you all the spiritual blessings in the heavenly places and pleasures forevermore! Join us in the new age to come as we treasure Christ forever.