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Pure and Blameless

Father Morgan's community garden plot in South Arlington

Notes from Simon Gray's homily on Philippians 2:12-18 from Sunday, July 8.

Sanctification. Philippians 2:12-18 talks being pure and blameless:

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed---not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence---continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

But first: Gardening. Hard to get rid of all the weeds, especially sneaky ones that send out lots of shoots. And even if I managed, they would come from air-blown seed, or birds, or my neighbor's garden. I don’t expect a weed-free garden, and that’s OK.

The ‘pure and blameless' goal in Philippians 2:15 picks up on the prior section, Phil. 1:9-11:

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ---to the glory and praise of God.

Ten Commandments — should they be treated like an exam question “Attempt no more than seven”? We know that is not right. And even if we achieved ten out of ten (not just attempting, but succeeding), we know that is not sufficient.

The bar is set high! The tension between the reality of where we are, and our calling, is real; and fortunately is recognized: Phil 1:10 adds ‘for the day of Christ’ (i.e. not necessarily today); and Phil 2:15 says we should “become” pure and blameless.

If salvation is a matter of relationship (in the Old Testament, relationship with God, and in the New Testament, relationship with the Godhead/Trinity), then sanctification is a matter of developing the relationship. Do we have the same mindset as Jesus, as he related to God the Father?

We stand for the reading of the gospel to show our reverence for God: “In fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12) does not mean we should cower in a corner in fear, but that we should be reverent in God’s presence. The Deuteronomy reference - some of those who are the ‘crooked and perverse generation’ did not respond to God with fear and trembling.

Matthew 26:36-41: Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn't you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” We need to be alert, and especially when under pressure to maintain our relationship with God. That doesn’t just happen. Paul says we should “work out your salvation"; we need to work at it (and of course God works in you).

  • Sanctification is an on-going process requiring ‘strenuous effort’ on our part.

  • Have the same ‘mindset’ as Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5): spend time with God.

  • Jesus worked out his relationship in submitting to the Father’s will (Gethsemane) in order to bring salvation to others and glorify God. Is this the same purpose that we have as we work out our salvation?

Light: the calling is to ‘shine like stars in the sky’ as we hold firmly to the Word of Life. Jesus is the Word of Life. As you hold firmly to him, God sees you shining like stars in the heavens.

The bar is set high, as the calling is high. But we don’t go it alone. Holding firmly to the Word of Life, and as a body of believers, we will shine like stars in the heavens.


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