September 28, 2014 Text: Philippians 2:1-4, 14-18
Dear Friends in Christ,
Don’t fall out of your pew on this one – but I watch a lot of sports. I know you are shocked, but it is true. One thing I hear the announcers talk about periodically is that a certain player is “a difference maker.” They are conveying to the audience that some players have skills and abilities that can change a game. They run faster, hit harder, pitch better than their fellow players. They make a difference for their team, which usually leads to winning.
How about you? Do you consider yourself a difference maker? Not in the sports arena but in the life arena. Do you like to just sit on the sidelines and complain about people and the world? Or do you like to get in the game, use your God-given skills and abilities to further advance the cause of Christianity down the field?
This morning Paul is addressing his brothers and sisters in Christ at Philippi. A congregation founded by Paul and one he still watched over. He knew the challenges they were up against. But he had a game plan they could each be a part of. This morning so can you . . .
“BEING A DIFFERENCE MAKER”
Paul knew what his fellow Christians were battling. He said they were “in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation.” (v. 15b) Don’t we hear the same words being used about the times we live in? Crooked in the generation that has left the straight paths of the Lord. Crooked in mind and in heart and thus in acts means lying thought. Truth is straight but lies are crooked or twisted.
Have you heard or seen this one? It is called “the blasphemy challenge” and it is used by atheists to further their agenda and to expose the “crock that is Christian doctrine.” They want their followers to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit and this verse from Mark 3:29: “But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.” This is how twisted things are. People who supposedly don’t believe in the Trinity want to sin against it. But, of course, they wouldn’t call it a sin.
In the political arena two agendas have been advanced. Marijuana and same-sex marriage. Having grown up in the 70’s and 80’s I didn’t think I would see a day when marijuana was looked on more favorably than smoking. I don’t want to argue the medicinal purposes but we know this will lead to abuses as we are already seeing.
When it comes to same-sex marriage and parenting I read this interesting quote: “You encourage a consumerist model of parenting. It encourages the idea that individuals have a right to a kid, instead of viewing children as a gift and a great blessing.”
In this crooked and twisted generation we live in a “social revolution that attempts to define what you’re allowed to think and do in the public square.”
So, how do you and I make a difference? First, Paul’s advice: “Do nothing from rivalry 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.” (vs. 3-4) These admonitions all come because of our connection to Christ.
Gandhi had this interesting quote during his lifetime: “I don’t refuse Christianity because of the Christian Scriptures but because of Christians.” Ouch! We can’t be self-righteous but we must make an honest assessment of ourselves. We can be crooked in thoughts and deeds. We can become twisted in our thinking if it fits an agenda or manipulates a situation. We are not immune to the garbage that is coming our way, day by day by day. And then some of us don’t want to be difference-makers because we think there isn’t anything that can stop the tide that is sweeping over us. Satan and sin and the world win when we become apathetic. Talk about the sidelines, some don’t want to leave the locker room.
But leave it we must. Contact with the world cannot be avoided. Ever and ever we must have it impressed upon us that we are different from the world, must be told what is the matter with the world, and what we have that makes us different. Look at Paul’s encouragement, “Holding fast to the word of life.” (16a) Paul labored because of his confidence in the Word of God.
Do you have that same confidence in the Word? As Scripture says, “These words…are life.” They increase our spiritual life. This Word called us in the waters of Holy Baptism. This Word strengthens are daily walk. Holding fast to the Word of Life continuously reminds us of the forgiveness and life we have in Christ. This Word of Life is power as the Holy Spirit helps us to become difference makers. The Word of Life in Holy Communion can make the weak strong. It is a spiritual boost for the days ahead.
As the text tells us, we are to “shine as lights in the world.” (v. 15c) Even imperfect Christians shine. When Jesus spoke to his imperfect disciples he did not use the future tense: “You shall be the light of the world,” but the present: “You are the light of the world.” (Matt. 5:14) And you are you know? The littlest things you do for others can make a difference. The big things you shout from the rooftops can make a difference. As with a ballplayer, God has gifted you with certain gifts and abilities that start to make the crooked straight, and the twisted start to untangle.
The social scientist I quoted earlier on same-sex parenting had this to say later in his presentation. France is proof “of signs that people are fed up with the fruits of the sexual revolution. Human nature is reasserting itself.”
Be faithful. That is all that is asked of a difference maker.