“12 Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. 13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”
Have you ever had a room or office space that the lights were wired to a dimmer switch? Dimmer packs are nice. You can turn them up for maximum brightness or lower them for a more quaint setting. They are really good for setting the atmosphere, however when you dim them it makes it harder to see. When a light is dimmed it means that it has the potential to shine brightly, but has had the power diminished to it or its illumination restricted so it creates less light. Paul recognized that if the church was going to shine brightly it had to avoid a couple of things that have the potential to dim us.
The first thing that can diminish our light is disobedience. In fact, disobedience can dim our witness faster than anything. Isn’t that one of the biggest complaints we hear from unbelievers is that Christians tell you to act one way, yet don’t behave that way themselves:
“Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach.” — Matthew 23:1-3
Paul further emphasizes that obedience is not subject to who we are with or where we are at. Paul encourages us to live obedient lives regardless of the company we are keeping or the venue we are occupying. We can’t just live obedient lives at church around other believers. We have to live it among unbelievers as well.
The second thing that can diminish our light among others is complaining and disputing among ourselves:
“Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people — Philippians 2:14-15
Disputes among believers communicates a lack of unity within the body of Christ. Jesus taught that a house divided cannot stand. So it is important that we, as believers, find ways of settling our differences in ways that promote healing and growth rather than draw criticism from those we are trying to reach.
Finally, the last thing that Paul points to that can diminish our light is to hold too loosely to God’s Word:
“Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.” — Philippians 2:16
If we don’t believe God’s Word and live by it ourselves, what would cause others to hold to it at all. If we, ourselves, only loosely follow God’s Word, others will fail to see the value in it.