In February 2007, The Barna Group did a fascinating study titled “American Lifestyles Mix Compassion and Self-Oriented Behavior” which revealed mixed traits of Americans that showed a “willingness to sacrifice and impulses toward self-oriented behaviors.” We as a nation, according to this study, display a strange dichotomy of beliefs and behaviors.
I have seen this mix in the church as well. It is a struggle, at least in my own life, to walk the talk as well as talk the walk. I could probably blame a number of reasons on my inconsistent Christian life, but as Karen and I were talking about with friends yesterday at lunch, my own flesh can be all the enemy I need. I too often grumble and mumble about things I should be praising God for, because they are blessings in my life. Paul warned against grumbling and mumbling:
“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.” (Philippians 2:14-16)
What is the most challenging word in the above passage? Yep… “all.” That means everything. As in whatever you’re doing, you can’t complain, gripe, or fight. No matter what; no matter when. Never. Ever. At all. Period. Geez!
He had to say “all”, didn’t he?
Yep, because that is what distinguishes us from the world. Back to our Barna study: David Kinnaman, who directed the study said this about we who call ourselves Christians:
“The respect, patience, self-control and kindness of born again Christians should astound people, but the lifestyles and relationships of born again believers are not much different than others.”
It is that respect, patience, self-control, and kindness of we believers that should be a lighthouse to “a crooked and perverse generation.” Please don’t misunderstand me; I’m not cursing the darkness or trying to broad-brush condemn the church. What I am trying to do is share with you what God puts on my heart and I think an honest assessment of my life individually and my church family corporately will reveal much room for improvement in our being salt and light.
I do praise God that I am a member of a church that does not “fight like hyenas” (as our pastor describes it) because that is not at all what Christ has in mind for the church. Paul gave the Corinthian church the same admonition as he did the Philippian church by referring to the Old Testament:
“… nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” (1 Corinthians 10:10-11)
It is astounding to me how innocent my griping can seem at the time and yet the Bible gives such strong admonition against it. Why is that? Well, Mr. Kinnaman’s answer above gives some light, but let’s look to our old friend Matthew Henry for more:
“Do your duty without murmuring. Do it, and do not find fault with it. Mind your work, and do not quarrel with it. By peaceableness; give no just occasion of offense. The children of God should differ from the sons of men. The more perverse others are, the more careful we should be to keep ourselves blameless and harmless. The doctrine and example of consistent believers will enlighten others, and direct their way to Christ and holiness, even as the lighthouse directs their course into the harbor.”
“Lord Jesus, admonish me through the Holy Spirit every time I complain, gripe, or murmur. Remind me Lord that I am to be a lighthouse in this dark world, that my example should draw the lost to You. Help me to live a consistently blameless and harmless life, all to Your glory and in Your name, amen.”
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Copyright © 2011 David Jeffers