Learning to Be a Christian STAR in Today’s Culture
Before there were the modern “star search” shows, there was Star Search. Ed McMahon was best known as Johnny Carson’s sidekick, but he also hosted Star Search, a program where aspiring actors and musicians perform before a live audience, hoping for stardom. Ed McMahon was the forerunner to American Idol, The Voice, and America’s Got Talent. Before these contests, there was Star Search.
In Philippians 2, Paul is on his own “star search.” He tells Christians in Philippi how they can become stars. Paul is not looking for musical talent or acting skills. He is looking for how people live. God wants us to be lights in the world, or, as in some translations, “stars in the universe.” The word “lights” refers to heavenly luminaries. How, then, do we shine as stars?1
“Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world,” (Philippians 2:14–15, CSB)
The third way to be a Christian STAR is to behave. You behave out of what you believe. This is why belief comes before baptism. You show you believe in Jesus by being baptized after you come to belong to Jesus. Acting as a Christian becomes a form of mission. The reason is that Jesus is on display in your life. How you act points to Jesus or points, people, away from Jesus.
There are three pairs of characteristics described in these verses. The first set describes the Christian. The second set reveals how the first set can be true. In other words, the second set defines the first set. The third set defines the culture. Let’s start with the Christian and move to how we can impact the culture. There are four different ways that a Christian can impact the culture.
FOUR WAYS A CHRISTIAN CAN IMPACT THE CULTURE
1. Total separation. Monastery; no contact.
2. Total immersion. Lots of contact, but no impact.
3. Split adaptation. Sunday-only Christian; “hypocrite.”
4. Transformation. “in but not of the world.”
The Christian doesn’t live in opposition other culture. We are not against the culture. Yet we do live as an example to the culture. How can the world see that we love one another? We shine our star and point others to Jesus by the way we relate to one another. Here, Paul emphasizes four different ways that we relate to one another. They both have to do with the way we talk to one another.
FOUR WAYS THE CHRISTIAN CAN SHINE LIKE STARS TO THE CULTURE
“Do everything without grumbling and arguing…” (Philippians 2:14–15, CSB)
As Christians, we can do things with a positive attitude. However, many times, we can easily slip into the mode of doing things with a negative attitude. Those negative attitudes are revealed by the two words in this verse: grumbling and arguing.
1. Stop grumbling
The word here is “gongysmon” which means to complain. Refers to the act of expressing one’s internal reaction to a situation, either to oneself or to others. The word is found in a couple of places in the New Testament:
“And there was a lot of murmuring about him among the crowds. Some were saying, “He’s a good man.” Others were saying, “No, on the contrary, he’s deceiving the people.”” (John 7:12, CSB)
“In those days, as the disciples were increasing in number, there arose a complaint by the Hellenistic Jews against the Hebraic Jews that their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution.” (Acts 6:1, CSB)
This is the quiet form of complaining. This is like when someone mutters under their breath a word about something. They say something that they don’t like but they don’t want the person to hear it. It is a passive-aggressive form of complaining. They may even say something in earshot of the person they disagree with. But they don’t start the verbal argument. They wait for you to respond.
Faults are like the headlights of a car; those of others seem more glaring than your own. Nothing is easier than faultfinding: no talent, no self-denial, no brains, and no character are required to set up in the grumbling business.2 As Christians, we really should not be a complaining people.
2. Stop arguing
The word here is “dialogismon” which describes the product or result of thinking. The thought, reasoning, or opinion can be positive. It can be doubts. Yet, in this case, as in all cases in the New Testament, the word. is not used to refer to good thoughts. For example:
It is an evil and malicious reasoning. It’s not objective reasoning. There is an evil intent behind it. There is a bias to the thought. The idea here is that someone will reason, dispute, and talk themselves out of responsibility when they are wrong. We see this word in a couple of ways in the New Testament:
“For from the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immoralities, thefts, false testimonies, slander.” (Matthew 15:19, CSB)
“haven’t you made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:4, CSB)
“But perceiving their thoughts, Jesus replied to them, “Why are you thinking this in your hearts?” (Luke 5:22, CSB)
“An argument started among them about who was the greatest of them.” (Luke 9:46, CSB)
““Why are you troubled?” he asked them. “And why do doubts arise in your hearts?” (Luke 24:38, CSB)
This is the loud form of complaining. You know when a person will continue to argue about a matter. They don’t stop. They just think they are right and they keep arguing their point.
Charles Spurgeon, the 19th-century English preacher has said:
We cannot be blameless if we murmur and dispute, for such things naturally lead to sin. Our lights cannot shine if instead of trimming them we occupy ourselves with blowing out the lamps of others.3
“…so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless…among whom you shine like stars in the world,” (Philippians 2:14–15, CSB)
Doing things without grumbling and arguing, this shows others that we are blameless and pure. Christians should be blameless and pure. We set an example.
1. Be blameless
2. Be pure
The word pair has been used before in this letter:
“so that you may approve the things that are superior and may be pure and blameless in the day of Christ,” (Philippians 1:10, CSB)
The purpose of being blameless and pure is so that when we are judged as Christians, we will be found without fault. As Christians, we are expected to be more mature as we grow older and wiser in the relationship with Jesus Christ. But the “Day of Christ” is the time when the Christian is judged for how they presented Jesus to the world. How I act today impacts the results of the Gospel tomorrow. How I act today can help a person come to Christ or not. My actions have consequences for eternity.
This is the reason we are told to be blameless. It reminds us of the relationship Abraham had with God. Abraham is trusting God one step at a time. First, God calls Abraham out from the land of the Chaldeans. God leads Abraham on a journey to Israel. They go through a famine, a rescue operation for Abraham’s nephew, and a blessing. God reminds Abraham that He will protect Abraham through this difficult journey.
“After these events, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield; your reward will be very great.” (Genesis 15:1, CSB)Abraham is still trusting God with fear. He wonders how his line will continue. God reminds him of the future son, even when his wife is barren. But Abraham doesn’t listen and Ishmael is born to him. Consequences occur that affect the local region. A conflict between Israel and the Ishmaelites will come to pass.
Then God says this:
“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him, saying, “I am God Almighty. Live in my presence and be blameless.” (Genesis 17:1, CSB)
God doesn’t say this to the young Abram. He says this to the older Abram. He confirms this expectation by changing Abram’s name to Abraham. He expands the vision of Abraham from leading one family to leading many nations. The future is greater for Abraham, so His walk with God must be better. His relationship with his world must be better.
So being blameless and pure has to do with a Christian’s conduct with the world. The Christian may struggle for a time. But over time, the change of Jesus Christ in a Christian’s life should make them blameless and pure. It’s an observable conduct, which one can “find no fault” with.
Since Paul will repeat this idea with another word in the next phase, where the context is toward people, very likely this first occurrence, as in the Genesis account, is “blameless toward God.” “Pure”4 is directed more toward the heart, not in the sense of “clean” but of “innocent.”5
So I am blameless towards God, but I am pure or innocent in my relationships with other people. It doesn’t mean that we are sinless. Yet, how we act in front of others says much about our faith. Our walk must match our talk. That will happen when we improve the way we behave with each other. Jesus said that the world will know that we are Christians by the way we love each other.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”” (John 13:35, CSB)
“…in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world,” (Philippians 2:14–15, CSB)
HOW THE CULTURE BEHAVES
The culture is crooked and perverted. The culture is always corrupt. It may have good characteristics. But in its essence, every culture is corrupt. The reason is that we live in a world defined by sinful nature. Paul describes that sinful nature of the culture with the words crooked and perverted.
The culture is made up of people who: do not keep straight, who hold wrong views, who follow a distorted way of life, deviating from the norms contained in the Word of God,6
“Household slaves, submit to your masters with all reverence not only to the good and gentle ones but also to the cruel.” (1 Peter 2:18, CSB)
“With many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, “Be saved from this corrupt generation!”” (Acts 2:40, CSB)
The idea here is that the people are not morally straight. Their path is not straight. It is dishonest, immoral and evasive. They follow a path that has turns and twists. The crooked are followers who do the sinful activities that are contrary to God’s law and will. These crooked people are the followers of sin who oppose God.
What is the difference between crooked and perverted?
A person who is crooked is following a path that is already twisted. Perverters are pioneers of sin. A perverted person makes the paths twisted. A perverted person is someone who leads others to sin. We call a person perverted because other people don’t act the same way. First, they are doing something that is not straight, not morally correct. Second, they are pioneers in the work of sin. They lead others in the path of sin by engineering new ways to sin. That is what makes them perverted. People would look at them and say that no one would act like that. But the next thing you know, everyone is acting like that. They are the pioneers who normalize sinful behavior.
If a culture is filled with sin, and it will continue to be this way, then what is the point my living my life for Jesus Christ in a way that pleases God? The reason is that “shining like stars” means not that I look great. Instead, a star points the way. My goal as a Christian is not to promote myself as better than anyone in the culture. Instead, it is to shine Jesus to the culture.
The culture knows this. People in the world know that the Christian is supposed to follow Jesus. That is why it is important that we “set ourselves apart.” Now, it doesn’t mean we “separate ourselves apart.” We don’t turn from the culture and let it go to hell on its own. Instead, we set ourselves apart in order to become more mature. The goal of my growth is always the mission, not perfection. I don’t try to grow in Christ to make myself the perfect Christian. Instead, I grow as a Christian so that I may show Christ to others. My little star is pointing to the Superstar.
Our culture is so negative that when it sees someone positive, that person shines like the North Star on a dark night.
The National Football League Pro Bowl game provides an opportunity for the stars to showcase their talents. The postseason contest played in Hawaii allows a chance to relax.
A strong rivalry exists between the AFC and NFC. With the National Conference dominating the Super Bowl, the American Conference often exacts revenge in the Pro Bowl. In 1995, that’s exactly what happened.
Behind a strong All-Pro line, the AFC rushed for a record 400 yards. Colts rookie Marshall Faulk led the way, setting a new individual mark of 180 yards in 13 attempts. He bolted 49 yards for a touchdown on a fourth-quarter fake punt to set the new high.
Seattle’s Chris Warren contributed 127 yards, and Pittsburgh’s Eric Green hauled in 2 TD passes. Charger linebacker Junior Seau anchored the defense, logging 7 tackles.
The AFC allowed its National Conference counterparts only 41 yards rushing and 209 total yards. Despite spotting its rivals a 10-point first-quarter lead, the American Conference routed the NFC All-Pros, 41-13, for its third win in five tries.
AFC and NFC players continually argue about who’s the best. The Super Bowl normally proves the NFC argument. The Pro Bowl usually supports the AFC claim. But true stars don’t need cheap talk. They don’t have to show off. They shine purely by their actions on the field.
God’s children who star in life don’t need to argue, complain, or show off either. Dedication, hard work, kindness, loyalty, hope, commitment, truth, honesty, faith, and love all shine through their lives.7
1 Robert J. Morgan, Nelson’s Annual Preacher’s Sourcebook, 2002 Edition. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001), 124.
2 Michael P. Green, ed., Illustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 Sermon Illustrations Arranged by Topic and Indexed Exhaustively, Revised edition of: The expositor’s illustration file. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989).
3 C. H. Spurgeon, The Interpreter: Spurgeon’s Devotional Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1964), 714.
4 Gk. ἀκέραιοι; elsewhere in Paul only in Rom 16:19 (“be innocent with regard to evil”; cf. Matt 10:16, “innocent as doves”).
5 Gordon D. Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), 244–245.
6 Jac J. Müller, The Epistles of Paul to the Philippians and to Philemon, The New International Commentary on the Old and New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1955), 94.
7 John Hillman, Kathy Hillman, and Andy Pettitte, Devotions from the World of Sports (Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2013).