Getting Our Spiritual Bearings
return to the main player
Return to the Main Player
return to the main player
Return to the Main Player

Getting Our Spiritual Bearings

Philippians 2:14-15  (ID: 3500)

Paul wrote to the early church in Philippi to help them get their spiritual bearings amid a crooked and twisted generation. Today’s world is similarly warped, seeking to dethrone God in favor of selfish pursuits and nebulous beliefs. Reminding us of our true identity in Christ, Alistair Begg warns believers not to be passive. Instead, we are to stand firm in one Spirit, strive side by side for the faith of the Gospel, and shine in the midst of the world’s darkness.


Sermon Transcript:

I invite you to turn with me as we read from the New Testament and from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. And we’ll read in chapter 2, from verse 1 through to the end of verse 18. Philippians chapter 2, beginning in verse 1:

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, … taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

“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, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 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, 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. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I[’m] glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.”

Thanks be to God for his Word.

Well, the verses to which I should like to draw our attention are essentially verses 14 and 15 of the passage that we just followed along as I read. I invite you to turn there, and as you turn, let me turn our thoughts to God in prayer:

And now, gracious Father, we pray for help to be given to the one who speaks and to each of us as we listen, for that sense of humility that is characteristic of bowing beneath the authority of your Word, that there will be no clouding of the clarity that is contained in your Word and that by your grace there may be that response of each of our lives to its truth. To this end we seek your help, in Christ’s name. Amen.

Well, Paul writes this letter, as with others of his letters, from a position of imprisonment, probably in Rome. And he is writing to encourage his readers. He’s writing, actually, if you like, as a good and a faithful pastor. And from the very beginning, he identifies them along the lines of the song that we’ve just been singing. You will notice in the opening verse of his letter, he is writing “to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi.”[1] So, you have this juxtaposition of being in Christ and in Philippi. The real nature of who and what they are is on account of God’s grace to them, and they are living their lives there in Philippi.

Now, some of you will know that many years have elapsed since the gospel had come first to Europe in that exact location. And you can read of that for yourselves in Acts chapter 16, where we have the record of Paul and his companions going down to a place where prayers were being said. And it was in that context that the first church in Europe was established.

Now, as we read his letter to the Philippians, it becomes clear that Paul is preoccupied with the gospel. He’s preoccupied with the gospel. And when we say “the gospel,” we mean what the Bible means—namely, the good news of what God has done in Christ to make it possible for us to know God and to love him; what God has done in Jesus to set us free from ourselves and from sin and from the devil and from death.

And Paul is writing to encourage them, because he knows that this is actually the journey on which they have begun. And so, for example, in verse 6 he says, “I am [confident] of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”[2] And in the passage that we read in 2:12 he says to them, “I’m encouraging you that, just as you’ve always obeyed when I’m with you, so now, in my absence, I want you to keep on obeying.”

Now, my purpose is not just to reinforce this, but let me point it out to you, and you can follow up on this on your own. Paul is clearly not ashamed of the gospel. He doesn’t say this in Philippians; he says it in Romans, you’ll remember, at the beginning of Romans 1: “I[’m] not ashamed of the gospel,” he says.[3] The ones to whom he writes are, according to 1:5, his partners in the gospel. The reason that he’s in jail is on account of his commitment to the gospel. He wants them to make sure that they live their lives in a manner that is worthy of the gospel. In fact, he wants them to stand firm in the gospel. He wants them to strive side by side in the gospel.[4] And by the time he’s getting to the end of his letter, even though he has to tweak the noses of a couple of ladies that are in disagreement with one another, he reminds them that they are actually and have been brought together by and for the gospel.

All of that simply to acknowledge that Paul, once Saul of Tarsus, is a gospel man. It’d be impossible to meet him without being made aware of the fact that he was truly amazed by God’s grace in his life, that mercy had been shown to him. He who had been an opponent of Jesus and disinterested in anything to do with him had been radically changed by the gospel.

And now, I want us to come to these two verses in particular, verses 14 and 15. And I want to use them this morning—and I say “use them” because in many ways, our message is to take up this very theme and apply it particularly to ourselves on this day. I want us to see these two verses as an opportunity to get our spiritual bearings. To get our spiritual bearings. We understand what it is to get one’s bearings, to discover one’s position or one’s situation relative to one’s surroundings. That’s what I’m talking about. Some of us have recollections of our fathers who, when we were saying to them, “Where are we, where are we going, how will we get there?” and we recall him saying, “Just give me a moment to get my bearings.” “Just give me a moment to get my bearings.”

And so, we’re taking a moment this morning just to get our bearings, and to consider it along three lines: on account of the fact that Paul first of all reminds those to whom he writes about their identity, who they are; secondly, that he makes clear to them where they are; and thirdly, he reminds them of what it is they are supposed to be doing.

Now, what I want to do is to recognize that he has written this to first-century Philippi, and here we are in twenty-first-century Cleveland. And the principles as they relate to the people of God, whether applied in the first century in Europe or in the twenty-first century in America, help us to get our bearings. So we will think of it not in terms of they but in terms of we. All right?

Who Are We?

So, first of all, he reminds us who we are. And, of course, there’s no surprise to this. You see there in verse 15, he refers to them as the “children of God.” He says, “You’re the children of God.” You say, “Well, maybe that’s why we sang that song.” Very good! That’s absolutely correct. In 1:12 he refers to them as his brothers and sisters. What a strange thing to say! They are clearly not his physical brothers and sisters. No, it’s because of their relationship. They have one Father.

And when he refers to them in that way, as “children of God,” he’s not talking about it by way of creation, in the sense that we’re all the evidence of God’s handiwork, but rather that he’s talking about it in relationship to redemption. So, for example, if you think about the beginning of the church and the conversion of Lydia, who was a worshiper of God, when you read in that passage, it says that the Spirit of God worked in her heart “to pay attention to” what Paul had to say.[5] He goes down to the place of prayer, and in that context of God-fearing people, he begins to speak to them, and the Spirit of God worked in her heart in such a way that she paid attention.

It’s a good reminder, isn’t it? Some of you are listening to me now, but you may not be paying attention. I cannot command your attention. I can’t hardly command my own attention. The fact of the matter is, it is the Spirit of God at work in the heart and mind of a person that even grants the ability to pay attention. So when somebody says, “Are you paying attention?”—well, Lydia paid attention. And as she paid attention, she realized that for her to be converted involved two things. Number one, credence: there was something that had to be believed—namely, who Jesus is and what Jesus had done. And secondly, commitment, and that is commitment to the one who made the promises.

Now, when we think in these terms, as we consider the notion… I was thinking this morning as I was driving here, as I just had the phrase “children of God” in my mind, and, you know, I have a problem with this, but I was thinking again of “Woodstock,” and I could hear Joni Mitchell singing, “I came upon a child of God; he was walking along the road.”[6] And I said to myself, “Yes, but you were talking about a child of God by way of creation.” We’re all children of God. He made us. But may I ask you this morning, has he adopted you into his family? Do you believe in Jesus? Well, that’s the credence part. Have you committed your life to Jesus?

You see, this is what’s involved. It’s not belief in a power greater than ourselves. This is what makes the Christian distinct from every other religious notion in the world. We’re not talking here about “Do you believe in God?” No. We’re not talking about “Do you believe in a power that is within ourselves or beyond ourselves?” No! We’re actually talking… And we’re not talking, incidentally, about deciding to become spiritual. No, we’re actually talking about receiving Jesus. We’re talking about resting in Jesus as the one, and the only one, who is able to set us the right way up.

So, number one, who are we? We’re the children of God. Number two, who are we? We are citizens of heaven. You say, “Well, that’s not in our verses.” No, but it is in the passage, the wider passage. Verse 20: “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”[7] The Philippians understood what it was to be living away from their real location, because Philippi was a Roman colony. And so the people lived in Philippi, but when they thought in terms of authority, they looked to Rome and they looked to Caesar. And they understood that. They were, in one sense, aliens from their true location. They were established as an outpost of this kingdom. And so it is that he’s writing to them and he’s reminding them that their primary allegiance is to Christ and his kingdom. Their primary allegiance is to Christ and his kingdom.

This, of course, is very, very important. And when we think of ourselves this morning, rejoicing as we do in the particular celebrations that are ours, we realize that we are a fairly diverse congregation. There are people here whose roots are in New Zealand, people from Africa, people from the Ukraine, from Russia, people from all over the world that are present and very kindly and very graciously joined us in the singing of our anthem. But it’s not actually their anthem.

So what is it that unites us? Not a shared anthem but the same Father. For our citizenship is a citizenship that is established as a result of his divine intervention in our lives, and that is true across the whole world, in any language and in any place. And so, when we think in terms of all that we have for which to be thankful as a nation—and surely we do—we realize as well that our ultimate allegiance is to God himself.

Once we were dead; now we’ve been made alive. Once we were lost; now we’ve been found. Once we were helpless; now we are made new. Once we were without hope, and now we’ve been born again to a living hope. “I once was lost in darkest night [and] thought I knew the way.”[8] That’s what some of you would want to tell me. That’s what some of you have told me: “I used to come there and listen. I hadn’t a clue what was going on at all. And then, somehow or another, the Word of God became alive to me.”

I came to Jesus as I was,
Weary, and worn, and sad;
[And] I found in him a resting place,
And he has made me glad.[9]

So “we’re the people of God, called by his name.”[10] We are citizens of heaven.

Where Are We?

Secondly, where are we? Who are we? The children of God, citizens of heaven. And where are we?

What is it that unites us? Not a shared anthem but the same Father.

Well, where were they? Well, geographically, they were in a very nice spot. Some of us have been to Philippi, and it’s jolly nice, all around that region. That’s where they were physically. But spiritually, notice where he says they live: “You live,” he says, “in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation.” So physically, there they are, geographically, and yet their intersection with the culture in which they live is the fact that they are now demonstrably different—by grace, through faith—from their surrounding environment. There is a contrast. They are not blended in with it; they are distinct from it. And it is their very distinction from it that provides them with an opportunity to speak about the fact that their ultimate allegiance is not Caesar and Rome, but it is Christ and his kingdom. And what is true of Philippi in the first century is to be true of us in Cleveland in the twenty-first century. We, like them, live in a crooked and twisted generation. We live in a warped and a diseased world.

You see, that description here in our text, “crooked and twisted,” is not peculiar to time and place. It’s not as if once they got through with that in the first century and they moved on into the second and the third and the fourth and so on, and as the unfolding drama of history took place, people were becoming better and better and better, and eventually, of course, when we finally got to the twenty-first century, it was beautiful, it was perfect, and we read this and we said, “What does it possibly mean, ‘crooked and twisted’ and diseased and broken?” You see, it’s not peculiar to Philippi in the first century. It is representative of our world after Genesis chapter 3. It is representative of the fact that we live in a world that is fallen, and as a result of it being fallen, things are flawed.

And it is the flawed nature of it, the curved, crooked nature of it, which is in opposition to the amazing plan and purpose of God from the very beginning—a God who creates absolute perfection, who provides everything that is necessary to enjoy the world that he has made, to enjoy the relationships that will be manifested in that world. And then, all of a sudden, everything takes a downward turn: “No, I’d like to take that which you say I shouldn’t have. I have a sneaking suspicion that you are keeping that from me because that’s really the key to it all.” The same thing that is said even today.

Now, you say, “Well, could we not be a little more positive on the Fourth of July?” Well, I’m going to be positive in the end, as the Bible is positive. But I have to be negative before I can be positive, because that’s the way the Bible works. I mean, you don’t want to go to the doctor and he just says, “Everything’s fine!”—if it isn’t. She’s not a help to you at all. Let’s have the examination. And first of all, stand on the scale. And forget all that stuff about “Clothes equal five pounds”!

Our world is desperately ill. Our world is diseased. Our world is searching for a cure—a cure that is only found in the gospel. Do you believe this? Listen: “You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked,” writes Paul in Ephesians 2, “following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and [we] were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”[11] Alienated from the God who made us on two fronts: by our own rebellion and by his settled reaction to sin. Therefore, unless there is the opportunity of reconciliation, we remain in a dreadful state.

“Well,” you say, “well, that’s not the whole story, is it? Doesn’t the psalmist say that we are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’?”[12] Yes! And we are. Look around. Look at your neighbor: fearfully made, wonderfully made. There’s the evidence of it. Go through to the nursery in a moment or two, if there is an opportunity, and you’ll see them all in there, all these fearfully and wonderfully made little creatures. Yeah! But the psalmist also is honest enough to say, “I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”[13]

Now, you see, that’s a big help when you think about raising your children. Because if we have a biblical view of the doctrine of creation and a biblical view of the fall, then we’re real that what we’re dealing with is not simply a bunch of little angels but angelic-looking little creatures who will defy you as quick as look at you, who will explain to you when they’re going to bed and why they know that bedtime is on their clock and has nothing to do with you, that why they need the car keys, that why it is a stupid idea, that why, that why, that why. What is that? Did they go to school for this? No! What’s the problem? Crooked! Crooked! Warped! It’s not a straight line.

Our world is desperately ill. Our world is diseased. Our world is searching for a cure—a cure that is only found in the gospel.

Now, you see, what the Bible actually does is then make clear… And this is what Paul is doing. He’s reminding these people as they live in Philippi, “Listen, you must remember the fact that you live in a crooked and perverse generation, that you live in an environment that you have been actually removed from spiritually, and yet you live in that; you go to work in that every single day.” And so do we.

And the Bible’s explanation of the darkness is not simply politely ignored. No, not now; it is vehemently opposed. All the things that I’ve said so far, if I were to get an opportunity to say them down in the public square, the people would shout me down in an instant. They’d probably come and take me away.

“How could you say such things, especially on the Fourth of July? No, we have another credo that we live by. We got rid of that old stuff. No, no, no, no, this is a much nicer program. You can navigate your life by using this. First of all, number one, humans are inherently good.” That’s what they say. “The problem is all the environment. The problem is your grandmother. She should have taken you to the zoo when you wanted to go, and you’ve never recovered from it. What a shame! What a thing that she would do such a thing! You find yourself in such a mess, and you such an inherently good little boy. Secondly, individual freedom and personal happiness is the ultimate good. Check it out! ‘It’s Friday; I’ll do what I want.’ ‘She’s available; I can do what I choose. No one will ever know.’ And furthermore, it’s all about me. It’s about my happiness. And ultimately, I will be the arbiter as to what is good and helpful for me.” And the notion that if individuals—if individuals—are given maximum freedom in every aspect, then eventually, all will be well: “Just let us go. Just let us be free. Why do you have to have these frameworks? Why do you have to have these structures?”

Now, you’re sensible people. In this way, you see, God is dethroned. Man takes his place. Philippi lived in the first century, experiencing the pressure of an alien culture. We live now in the twenty-first century, a very short journey from the inception of our nation to today. And yet the Judeo-Christian principles which undergirded the establishment of our nation, which actually undergird the whole of Western civilization, those principles are no longer dominant really in any place at all. And people find themselves saying, “Well, it’s better that we be done with this. The God-given boundaries, we should at least blur them if not remove them.”

Now, it would be one thing, loved ones, if the culture was clear about this in its opposition and the church was equally clear in its pushback. But guess what? The church isn’t—Church with a big C. And you don’t have to go looking around for this stuff. It will meet you in the thoroughfare of life. I speak now concerning the United Kingdom, about which I know a significant amount, and particularly the response of the established church in England to the influence of a culture that has dismantled the boundaries that are established by Almighty God from the very beginning of civilization, from the very structure that he has made the universe.

So, for example, a liturgy within the framework of the Anglican Communion that is fashioned particularly to make sure that people of various gender persuasions will not feel uncomfortable with the language that is used by the vicar or the priest or the minister. Writing of this, one of the Anglican clergymen says, “It is now expected that churches simply accept that a [trans] person is not just identifying a gender different from his/her biological sex, but that he/she is ontologically different. This,” he writes, “is a new narrative. No longer is a transgender person someone who feels trapped in the wrong body, this now is a new variant of what it means to be human. The boundaries of creation have not simply been set aside, they have been wiped away.”[14]

A crooked and a perverted generation. Philippi, Cleveland, Paris, wherever you want to go in the world, there is no question but that the very threshold of opposition to God and to his rule is manifested with a clarity that is unavoidable when it comes to the very foundational elements of what it means to believe in Jesus, to trust in the gospel, and to be those who submit to the Bible. And those three areas are sex and family and the third one that I can’t remember. Creation? No, marriage. Marriage! Sex, marriage, and family.

When you think about it, and you read your newspapers, and you just go through the thing… Goodness gracious, it doesn’t matter! You could be watching a golf tournament now, and you’re subjected to this. The NFL players are trotted out in the midst of some event to make sure that we will not fall foul of these ridiculous notions which are contained in the Judeo-Christian ethic. In the realm of business, corporations bending over backwards to say, essentially, “We do not believe in the doctrine of creation. We do not believe there is a living God. We do not believe that God knew what he was doing when he made the universe.”

And so what has happened? Reason and evidence have been set aside, and emotion begins to take its place. And when that happens, reality becomes whatever you want it to be. Reality is whatever you choose for it to be. Truth is whatever you’ve decided: “Oh, that might be your truth, but it’s not my truth.” So the idea of any kind of objective standard whereby we would be able to determine what is in and what is out (save that which is provided for us in the Scriptures) is completely set aside.

Now, this explains why a transgender weightlifter from New Zealand can be in the Olympics. A woman with a man’s build and strength is set, now, to destroy women’s weightlifting by taking part in this event. It is an act of categorical outrage, injustice, to women’s sport. In fact, it is the death of fair competition!

Now, loved ones, this is not a political statement. You understand that. Everything has been now turned to a political agenda. We’re not talking politics here. We’re talking first-century Philippi. Who are you? The people of God. Where is your allegiance? As citizens of the King. Where are you living your life? In the middle of a crooked generation.

What Are We to Be Doing?

“Well, come to the last one, turn the corner, get a little positive,” the people said. Well, what are we to be doing? What are we to be doing?

“Well, let me tell you. First of all,” he says, “this is what you’re not to be doing.” And this is a real blow to some of us, because we’ve already started doing it under our breaths: [imitates grumbling]. There’s a word, actually, in Greek that just… It’s translated like that. It’s like [imitates grumbling], you know. And some of us are very, very good at it. Okay? Verse 14: “Whatever you’re doing, do it without grumbling or disputing.” “Do it without grumbling or disputing or complaining or arguing.” Paul, when he writes to Timothy, he says, “And I want that in every place, men should pray, lifting up holy hands, without arguing and complaining.”[15]

You see, it’s much easier to let your holy hands fall down, for the people of God to neglect the place of prayer and instead simply to champion our own particular agenda and cause and to give voice to the things that disturb and distress us and give us the grounds to a right good disappointment with everything and complain about everything that we ever meet. You will notice that in 1:27–28, where he says, “Your manner of life” should be “worthy of the gospel of Christ,” he says, “Let me tell you what that means: it means that you’re standing firm in one spirit with one mind. There is a unity—a unity that is not a political unity; a unity that is a gospel unity.”[16]

Who are you? The people of God. Where is your allegiance? As citizens of the King. Where are you living your life? In the middle of a crooked generation.

We do not all agree on a political agenda. Just be honest about that. If you knew what I really believe about certain things, you probably wouldn’t listen to me preach. And if I knew what you believe, the half of you, I wouldn’t even waste my time preaching to you. That’s the facts. All right? So the issue is not politics here. No, what is the issue? “Striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”[17] “For the faith of the gospel.” That’s why I began as I began. Paul is a gospel man. You can’t explain his life apart from the gospel. You can’t explain his ministry apart from the gospel. You can’t explain his letter apart from the gospel. “Standing side by side for the faith of the gospel.” Speaking to our society.

Augustine, in the fourth century, says the problem with us is that our desires are disordered. They’re disordered. Yes, that’s it! They’re disordered! Instead of it being here, as God says, it’s over here. Instead of it being a straight line according to the purposes of God, it is a crooked and a deviated line, expressed manifestly in our day in the matter of human sexuality. This is not a story… I’m not here to talk to you this morning about that, except that it is illustrative of what Paul is saying. It’s unavoidable. And so our friends and neighbors are seeking substitute gods that can’t save, longing for a unity that can’t be found, settling the issue of their guilty consciences—but it can’t be done. Only in Jesus, the drama of salvation, a kind of divine shock, an undeserved gift…

You see, this would be a complete waste of time this morning if I was saying to you something along these lines: “Now, things are in a dreadful mess, and I want you to go out and try and do your best and try and fix them.” No, if you hear that at all, you don’t have a touch of the Lydia in you. Not even a touch of it. You’re not paying attention.

Paul says, “I want to make sure that you are unashamed and that you are unafraid.”[18] Unashamed and unafraid. Are we gonna stand passively by as we make our way to the end of our earthly pilgrimage? Are we gonna pass off to our children and our grandchildren all of this, without a word spoken against it? Are you willing to just be struck dumb for the sake of a coercive culture? You say, “Well, it’s easy for you. You just stand up there behind that box. If you should see where I go to work, you wouldn’t be so quick to say it.” My dear friends, I acknowledge that entirely.

But in the arts, in journalism, in science, in education, wherever you are set, here is what we are to be: standing firm, striving side by side, holding, “holding [firmly] to the word of life.” You see that there in verse 16? “Holding fast to the word of life.” We say to our friends, “This is the Word of Life! The reason you are as you are is because you need the Word.” The Word of Life: “In him was life,” in him was light, and the light was the life of men; and “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness” is unable to put it out.[19] It can’t put it out. It won’t put it out. Because Jesus said he would build his church, and the gates of hell would not prevail against it.[20]

And so Paul is really clear, and we must be equally clear. He says when he writes to the Colossians, he says, “See to it,” he says. “Look out! Make sure…” “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive arguments.”[21] “Make sure you don’t get trapped by that,” he says. “Be on the alert.” When he writes to the Corinthians, he turns it around the other way, and he says, “[Listen:] we destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and [we] take every thought captive to obey Christ.”[22] Or as Phillips puts it—and I brought this, so I might as well quote it—as Phillips puts it (How does he put that there?), “We even fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ.” “Our battle is to bring down every deceptive fantasy and every imposing defence that men erect against the true knowledge of God.”[23]

It’s time to wake up. It’s time to step up. It’s time to speak up. Our message, the message of the gospel, in its essence, is timeless, and it is unalterable. Therefore, truth is what is found in Christ. Relationships are as defined by God the Creator. It is timeless.

You see, the chances are that you and I have begun to embrace what C. S. Lewis referred to as chronological snobbery: the idea that something that was before is inevitably obsolete just because it was then. You hear this all the time from pulpits: “Well, this stuff about the husband’s role and so on, well, that was back then, in the first century. We know that’s not the case. Children obeying their parents, what a crazy idea! Haven’t you heard what they’ve done in Scotland? Anybody that would dare to give their child a little pow-wow treatment will be taken off—will be taken off to jail.” That’s the facts. That’s how it works. Why is that? “Well, you don’t believe that old stuff, do you?” Well, yeah. Yeah, we do. And we believe this: that there is salvation in no one else. For there’s no other name given among men under heaven by which we must be saved.[24]

So what are we to do? Shine! Shine! “Shine on you crazy diamond[s].”[25] Shine! Shine! Paul says, “Make me proud.” “Make me proud.” This is a legitimate statement by Paul as the pastor of the church at Philippi. He says, “Do this so that I will know that I haven’t run the race in vain, that I have not worked in vain.” That’s the call of pastoral ministry: to teach the Bible. I can’t go to your place of work. I’m not bright enough, organized enough, skillful enough. I have no access. You go. You say no when no is right. You say yes to truth. Try it! Try it! I have a sneaking suspicion that others might join you.

Actually, Jesus—and we began in John 17—Jesus says, you know, “Father, I’m not taking them out of the world. I’ve left them in the world. And as you sent me into the world, I’ve sent them out into the world.”[26] Know what he then says? Do you know why? “So that the world [might] believe that you … sent me.”[27] How will the world come to believe that God sent Jesus to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins? One person at a time. Not by a political agenda, not by a pulpit ministry, but by the people of God, the children of God, citizens of heaven, in the midst of crookedness and darkness, standing firm, striving side by side, and shining as lights in a dark place.

As I finished up my studies this week, I said to myself, “You know, I think when I when to DC, I saw at the railway station there in DC these things carved into the wall.” And I went and looked it up, and I was right: that there at the great railway station, there are three texts, at least these three: one from Isaiah 35:1, “The desert shall … blossom as [a] rose”;[28] one from Hebrews 2:8, “Thou hast put all things … under his feet”;[29] and one from John 8:[32], “The truth [will] make you free.”[30]

Loved ones, we don’t need to be ashamed. We don’t need to be afraid. We need to wake up, step up, speak up, shine—“you in your small corner, and I in mine.”

Let us pray:

Jesus bids us shine
With a clear, pure light,
Like a little candle
Burning in the night.
In this world of darkness,
So [we may] shine—
You in your small corner,
And I in mine.[31]

O God, help us, we pray. Save us from ourselves. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.


[1] Philippians 1:1 (ESV).

[2] Philippians 1:6 (ESV).

[3] Romans 1:16 (ESV).

[4] See Philippians 1:27.

[5] Acts 16:14 (ESV).

[6] Joni Mitchell, “Woodstock” (1970).

[7] Philippians 3:20 (ESV).

[8] Jordan Kauflin, “All I Have Is Christ” (2008).

[9] Horatius Bonar, “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say” (1846).

[10] Wayne Watson, “People of God” (1982).

[11] Ephesians 2:1–3 (ESV).

[12] Psalm 139:14 (ESV).

[13] Psalm 51:5 (paraphrased).

[14] Melvin Tinker, That Hideous Strength: How the West Was Lost; The Cancer of Cultural Marxism in the Church, the World and the Gospel of Change (EP Books, 2018), quoted in Jill Man “TCW’s Summer Reads: A Christian on the March against Cultural Marxism,” The Conservative Woman, August 7, 2018, https://www.conservativewoman.co.uk/tcws-summer-reads-a-christian-on-the-march-against-cultural-marxism.

[15] 1 Timothy 2:8 (paraphrased).

[16] Philippians 1:27 (paraphrased).

[17] Philippians 1:27 (ESV).

[18] Philippians 1:28 (paraphrased).

[19] John 1:4–5 (ESV).

[20] See Matthew 16:18.

[21] Colossians 2:8 (paraphrased).

[22] 2 Corinthians 10:5 (ESV).

[23] 2 Corinthians 10:5 (Phillips).

[24] See Acts 4:12.

[25] Roger Waters, Richard Wright, David Gilmour, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” (1975).

[26] John 17:15, 18 (paraphrased).

[27] John 17:21 (ESV).

[28] Isaiah 35:1 (KJV).

[29] Hebrews 2:8 (KJV).

[30] John 8:32 (KJV).

[31] Susan Bogert Warner, “Jesus Bids Us Shine” (1868).

Copyright © 2021, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.