A Lesson From Liquid Glass
The spiritual formation of a Christian is not something that happens overnight. We are saved in an instant through our justification. However, conforming our lives to the image of our Savior Jesus Christ—that takes a lifetime. It is the process theologians call sanctification. To illustrate this process I invite you to consider glass. Do you know how glass is formed?
Believe it or not, glass is made from liquid sand. Glass forms when it encounters extraordinary heat; it melts and turns into a liquid. How hot does it need to get? Hotter than the beach in case you were wondering! Your feet are safe this summer! Sand melts at the mind-blowing temperature of 1700 degrees Celsius, or 3000 degrees Fahrenheit. To state the obvious—that’s hot!
In the same way, formation for the Christ follower occurs when we encounter heat. The fiery power of the Gospel warms our hearts through regeneration. The flames of suffering, or persecution, or conviction draw us to our knees through repentance. We must recognize our need for our savior! The reality is we live in a 1700-degree world.
Then it gets interesting. When the molten sand cools it doesn’t go back to it’s original form. Instead, it undergoes a complete transformation and becomes an entirely different structure. Liquid sand … turns into glass.
Choose Dependent Obedience
Christians can learn a lot from liquid sand. If we want to become more like Jesus—the Holy Spirit must completely transform our hearts. Our affections must change from a love of the world, to a love of Christ. This process is not easy or painless.
First, we must choose dependent obedience. What is dependent obedience? In Philippians 2:12-13, Paul calls us to work out our salvation. This seems clear—we must put forth effort to grow in our faith. However, in v. 13, he tells us that God works in us. What do we make of that? Is it a contradiction? I do not think so. The Greek verb for “works in,” means to put one’s capabilities into operation. Walter Hansen says it this way: “All the capabilities of God are in operation, active, and effective in the work of believers.” The point is this: We cannot do it on our own. Rather, we need to heat of the Holy Spirit to form us.
Put another way: God’s work is the cause of our work. Paul also says the reason for God’s action is, “to will and to act … to fulfill his good purpose.” Interestingly, the Greek word for work in v. 13 is the same as the previous. Because of God’s gracious work in our lives—we now work out our salvation to fulfill his good purpose.
Embrace Radical Contentment
Philippians 2:14-16 builds off the first section. Second, Paul tells us to embrace radical contentment. I use the word radical deliberately because any contentment in today’s culture is, indeed, radical. It is a departure from the norm. Every message we hear tells us we need more, more, more! Our culture cultivates discontentment in our heart.
Paul highlights this in v. 14 when he says, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing.” It is an imperative; it is a command. Paul is not giving options here. The way you work out your salvation, the way you display a changed life in Christ is by—what? Don’t Grumble and don’t argue! Again, Walter Hansen is helpful and gets straight to the point: “When Christian conversation is laced with complaints and personal attacks, Christians have lost their distinctive quality as the children of God in a world characterized by that same kind of negative tone.” Write that down in a place you will see it!
The sanctification process makes us different. God calls us to “shine like stars” in a dark world. We must stand out. Are you a shining light for Christ in every area of your life? If not … there is more work to do.
Savor The Sweet Sacrifice
That can be discouraging. You might say, “I’ve been a Christian my whole life and yet I still struggle.” Friend, recognize the sanctification process is slow. It is painful. It requires that we change our taste buds: We must savor the sweet sacrifice of Christ. And when we do—the sacrifice we offer will be sweeter as well. Paul sums up the section like this in Philippians 2:17-18:
“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” (Philippians 2:17, NIV).
Notice the vivid images. First, he says he is being, “poured out.” This image shows us the suffering of the ultimate sacrifice. Paul is saying that he wants to pour out his life for the ministry as Jesus poured out his life for his people. This phrase brings us back to the hymn in vv. 5-11. Because of our sin—Jesus Christ came to earth, lived a perfect life and died an atoning death on the cross. Literally, he poured himself out for us—Jesus emptied himself for the mission. Church, do you recognize that? Do you praise God for that? Has it changed your life?
Paul takes it a step further and applies it to us. The phrase, “drink offering” is a powerful image. Paul is evoking an OT scene. The image is an ancient sanctuary where, morning and evening, people would bring burnt offerings to the altar of God. They would be accompanied by “drink offerings.” Here is what would happen: before the fire was lit, a priest poured wine over the animal sacrifice to enhance the “pleasing aroma to the Lord (Num. 28:7-8).”
Paul is saying is this: Jesus poured out his life for us … we need to pour out our lives for him. And the MORE we pour out our lives in sacrificial service to God and the Gospel—the sweeter it will smell! Here is the biggest question: where is God calling you to pour out your life? Is there any area of your life that God has been calling you to give, but you are grumbling, you are arguing with him? Don’t resist him. Savor the sacrifice to the Glory of God.