From the Pastor's Desktop

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. ”

Philippians 2:12-16  ESV

Paul writes this letter to a church he planted as the first in the region of Macedonia which Luke records in the book of Acts in chapter 16. His stay there was relatively brief, as soon after arriving and preaching the gospel, where Lydia and her household come to faith, and not long after that was jailed along with Silas. They were miraculously freed from prison, with the jailer and his household also coming to faith, and they were summarily asked to leave the area by the city magistrates who had put them in jail to begin with. Ironically, it is likely from Paul’s first 2-year imprisonment in Rome that he writes this letter to the church in Philippi.

Paul’s letter is largely exhortation and encouragement toward Christlike living. This passage comes on the heels of the writing of Christ’s example of humility, calling them now to “shine as lights in the world”. Just as Christ’s example of humility ran counter to the ways of the world, so too they were to stand out as lights in the darkness of the world, “a crooked and twisted generation”. The term translated “twisted” here is the same Greek word that the term scoliosis is derived from, which is a condition of a curvature of the spine. Some translations use the terms “perverse or perverted”, which is a deviation from the standard or conventional state.

It’s no secret that our own generation has become crooked and twisted, and that this state is anything but new as some measure of this condition has existed from the fall of man in the Garden. But the church is called to be different from the world. The church has a responsibility to answer to a different standard, and not conform itself to the patterns and practices of the world. That standard is the Word of God. In this passage, Paul exhorts the Philippians to hold fast to “the word of life.”

Paul writes similarly of this in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Our minds are renewed by regular and consistent immersion in the Word of God. Without that key ingredient, the pressures of the world will begin to taint what we know to be true. And if we seek to be ac- accepted and loved by the world, compromise with the word of truth will be the path toward that love and acceptance.

The church has always been called to stand out, or to be a light in the darkness, holding fast to the word of truth. The church is at its best when it stands fast and helps believers lives to be transformed by that word of truth, instead of allowing the pressures of the world to shape it into something more palatable and easy to accept. In John’s Revelation, in chapter three, the letter to the church in Sardis, Jesus tells them, “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Rev. 3:5-6)

By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen