One of the best things about memorizing Scripture is how God uses it to convict my life. I am currently in the process of memorizing Philippians, and I am working on chapter 2. God has been using it to give me quite a few attitude checks recently, and I want to take just a minute to focus on one of them.
As I often do, let me preface by saying I am not writing from a position of having attained this. (I suppose that puts me in good company, as Paul hadn’t attained everything either. See Phillippians 3:12-16.) I am merely sharing the thought process I have had the last few days.
Philippians 2:14-15 says, “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.” (ESV)
If you read over that quickly because of familiarity, please stop and read through it a few more times slowly. Let it sink in.
Let’s break it down a little bit.
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” Notice the text. Do all things without grumbling or disputing. Not some things. Not most things. Not convenient things. “Do all things without grumbling or disputing” (emphasis mine). What does that mean? As I understand it, grumbling is more of an internal attitude. It is the inward thoughts that are negative toward something. Think of mumbling to yourself about the issue. Disputing is the outward form, where we begin arguing with others about what we are doing. In other words, we are not to be reacting negatively outwardly (toward others) or inwardly (where others won’t easily know, although it still usually impacts our attitude).
Honestly, I’m not sure I could even say I do most things or half the things I do without grumbling or disputing. Later I will list a few ideas of times this might apply, but I want to push forward with the text first.
What is the result of doing “all things without grumbling or disputing”? We will be “blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish.” Obviously, if we are still sinning in other ways, then we are not blameless and innocent and without blemish. The idea here is that we are to strive for those things. And obviously, if we have it down to the point that we are able to control our attitudes this way, then in theory we have already taken care of most or all of the bigger issues.
I realize this flies in the face of a lot of teaching today. We hear how we are just “sinners saved by grace.” We hear how we will never be perfect this side of Heaven. We are told that we sin every day in thought, word, or deed. I understand where people are coming from there and what they are reacting against. But I think we are overemphasizing some teachings of Scripture and neglecting the call to holiness and sanctification. We are to strive to live like Jesus and to constantly be more conformed to His image. Whether or not we will ever attain “Christian perfection” (to borrow John Wesley’s wording), we should certainly strive for it.
If we are doing “all things without grumbling and disputing,” we will be “blameless and innocent . . . in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation.” This part of the verse doesn’t need much notation. Check the news to see that this is an accurate description of our generation.
In the middle of this generation, if we are doing things as Paul says above, we will “shine as lights in the world.” Think about it. The vast majority of people do quite a bit of grumbling and disputing. If we, as children of God, could begin to live this out in our homes (regardless of what our spouses or children are doing), in our workplaces, in the slow-moving lines at the store, while waiting for food that seems to be taking too long in the restaurant, and many other places, we would stand out. We would be different. We would be exceptional. We would “shine as lights in the world.” What a witness that would be! Think of the conversations that could start up as a result of someone who knows us well never seeing us grumble or complain or argue!
I have most certainly not arrived here. But now that I have stored up those verses in my heart, I cannot grumble and dispute without the Holy Spirit bringing them to mind and convicting me.
May we all strive to live up to Scripture. I pray that you will make it your goal, as I am making it mine, to live in a counter culture way and “do all things without grumbling or disputing.” May God strengthen and bless you!