Philippians 1:10-11

Sermon preached on August 1, 2010 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

I've got a quiz for you today. It's based on a segment of the popular television show from the 1970's,
Let's Make A Deal. The question is sometimes called the Monty Hall problem in honor of the game show's first host. In the game, the contestant had three doors in front of him. Behind one door was a valuable prize. Behind the other two doors were gag gifts like a chicken or donkey. The contestant was told to choose one door. After he had chosen his door, the host opened one of the unchosen doors showing that it contained a gag gift. The host then asked the contestant if he would like to switch doors and pick the other unopened door or stay with his original choice. Should he stay with your original choice or should he switch? That's the question. Do his odds of winning increase by switching to the other door?

Most people's intuition (including mine) tells them that it doesn't matter whether they switch or not. For example, at the beginning of the game, the odds of any door containing the prize stands at approximately 33.3 percent. When one of the wrong doors is revealed we naturally think that the odds of the other two doors containing the prize rises to 50 percent each. So you don't gain anything by switching doors. That makes sense, doesn't it?

Although that may seem logical and makes sense to most people, the logic is flawed. You actually should switch doors. Switching will greatly increase your odds of winning. In fact, it will double them.

To see this you have to look at the problem from a different perspective. Instead of thinking about the odds of which one contains the prize, you have to think differently—consider the odds of picking the wrong door on your first guess. The odds of picking the wrong door in the initial stage is approximately 66.6 percent. So the odds are that you're going to pick the wrong door. So let's assume that you initially do pick the wrong door—because that's what the odds favor. If you do pick the wrong door initially, then it's easy. One of the other two doors is the correct door. The host then shows you which of the other two doors is the right door by revealing the one that contains the gag prize. Thus if you switch doors, you will win the prize. Of course, switching doors doesn't work if you initially picked the correct door. But the odds of you doing that are only 33.3 percent. So logic tells you that if you switch, you'll win 2/3 of the time. If you don't switch, you'll only win 1/3 of the time. (To see how this works out in practice, visit-

If you're really good at logic and math, you'd be able to figure out that the odds greatly favor switching. You'd be able to discern the best guess.

We are to do the same thing spiritually. Only with spiritual things, we don't so much use our logic to guide us in probabilities and percentages—but God's Word to guide us in certainty. The apostle Paul wrote, (Philippians 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
until the day of Christ,
filled with the fruit of righteousness
that comes through Jesus Christ—
to the glory and praise of God."

The great truth we see here is that

you are to be able to discern what is best so you will be holy and blameless for the day of Christ.

If your love grows more and more in knowledge and depth of insight you will be able to make proper assessments about what is absolutely essential for your growth in holiness. John Calvin writes,

"Here we have a definition of Christian wisdom — to know what is advantageous or expedient…"

You are to discern what is best and make so use wisdom to grow in holiness. Gordon Fee writes, (Philippians p. 101)

"For truly Christian life, some things matter, and others do not."

You are to cultivate the things that matter, the things that will help you grow in holiness.

What Paul says here reminds me of what he wrote in Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 6:12 Paul said,

"'Everything is permissible for me'
—but not everything is beneficial.
'Everything is permissible for me'
—but I will not be mastered by anything."

And in 1 Corinthians 10:23 he wrote,

"'Everything is permissible'
—but not everything is beneficial.
'Everything is permissible'
—but not everything is constructive."

Your love is to grow in knowledge and depth of insight so that you will have the ability to always choose what is best, the things that really matter. In this life some things matter and others do not. Ecclesiastes tells us all about this. Pleasure, power, prestige, riches, great projects, work (apart from that done for the Lord) — is all meaningless. Yet there are things that really matter. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:33,

"But seek first his kingdom
and his righteousness,"

Some things matter and some things do not. As the apostle Paul told us in Galatians 5:6,

"For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision
nor uncircumcision has any value.
The only thing that counts
is faith expressing itself through love."

So I ask you—are you constantly making the best decisions, the ones that help you grow in holiness? Are you able to discern what is best in every situation.

Many Christians today major on the minor things. They get it all wrong. They get hung up on things that are insignificant and they fail to show love because of that. They are so concerned about what other Christians are doing, and they focus on them, that they not only neglect their own growth, but they positively harm it. They're like the Pharisees. Matthew 12:1ff tells us how one Sabbath Jesus went through the grainfields with His disciples. They were hungry and picked some of the heads of grain and ate them. When some Pharisees saw this, they were indignant, and said to Jesus,

"Look! Your disciples are doing
what is unlawful on the Sabbath."

Jesus said to them,

"If you had known what these words mean,
'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,'
you would not have condemned the innocent.
For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."

Unfortunately some Christians today are just like the ancient Pharisees. They have all sorts of 'rules made by men'. They will tell you what you should and shouldn't do, not based on the Bible, but on their own personal preference. They lack compassion and kindness.

Now don't misunderstand. I'm not saying that you shouldn't help others or that you shouldn't be concerned about their lack of keeping God's commands. Keeping God's commands is essential. Remember how Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 7:19?

"Circumcision is nothing
and uncircumcision is nothing.
Keeping God's commands is what counts."

One of the major reasons Paul wrote Philippians was to help other Christians. But we dare not fall into the error of being primarily concerned about the little things that other Christians are doing wrong while being totally blind to our own great sins. In Matthew 7:3–4 Jesus said,

"Why do you look at
the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye
and pay no attention
to the plank in your own eye?"

This passage is all about you, about your spiritual growth. Are you able to discern what is best for you?

There are some things in life that can be snares to you. They'll catch you and not let you go. They'll stop you from progressing in sanctification. Just like the ancient Israelites were warned that they had to drive out the Canaanites from the promised land. If they did not, Joshua told them, (Joshua 23:13)

"they will become snares and traps for you,
whips on your backs
and thorns in your eyes,
until you perish from this good land,
which the LORD your God has given you."

Do you avoid the things that are snares to you? Do you avoid the things that aren't the very best things to help you grow in holiness?

Interestingly, what is best is the opposite of what the world thinks. In Mark 10:42–45 Jesus gave instruction in discerning what is best. He said,

"You know that those who are regarded
as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them,
and their high officials
exercise authority over them.
Not so with you.
Instead, whoever wants to become great
among you must be your servant,
and whoever wants to be first
must be slave of all.
For even the Son of Man
did not come to be served,
but to serve,
and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Sir Wilfred Grenfell writes, (The Best of Sir Wilfred Grenfell". p. 133)

"An inevitable cause of failure of all human ideals is selfishness. Call it sin if you wish: I am no stickler for labels. Whatever you style it, 'self first' is the negation of the raison d'être of our being on earth at all."

Putting yourself last. Esteeming others better than yourself. Turning the other cheek, going the extra mile. These are the things that are best.

The reason you are to be able to discern what is best and make decisions based on that is because

you need to be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.

One of the great implications of our text is that

you are to be making great progress is sanctification.

Silva says that what Paul has in view here, (p. 52)

"is the sanctified state of his readers at the time of the Lord's return." "the object of Paul's prayer is the total sanctification of the Philippians; what they now have in part must be brought to full fruition…"

You are to be discerning what is best 'for the day of Christ', in view of the day of Christ. In other words, you are to set your aim exceedingly high. As Paul wrote later in Philippians 3:12–15,

"Not that I have already obtained all this,
or have already been made perfect,
but I press on to take hold of that
for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
Brothers, I do not consider myself
yet to have taken hold of it.
But one thing I do:
Forgetting what is behind
and straining toward what is ahead,
I press on toward the goal
to win the prize for which God
has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
All of us who are mature
should take such a view of things."

So your goal should be nothing less than total sanctification. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 13:11,

"Aim for perfection…"

Is it your goal to make progress in holiness every day?

Sadly, many Christians think they're good enough. They think that they don't have to grow any further in love. They think they've arrived. But that's not true. We all need to press on.

One of the great differences between real and artificial plants is that real plants grow, fake ones stay the same.

One of the reasons I love Ted Williams was because he was that way. Ted Williams was a great baseball player who played for the Boston Red Sox. He was the last man with a batting average over 400. Going into the last day of the season, (I think it as 1941), Ted Williams had a 399.6 batting average. They were playing a double-header and the Red Sox manager offered to let Ted sit out the games. He thought that a 399.6 batting average would be rounded up to 400 and Ted would have his 400 average. But Ted said that he wanted to play,
if he was going to be a 400 hitter, he wanted to do it all the way. He went 4-5 in the first game and 6 for 8 on the day and ended up with a batting average of 406. How can you not admire him for that.

You should be like that with your Christian life. You should always be growing, always progressing, always changing for the better.

The reason we need to set our aim high has to do with God's glory.

On the day of Christ, we are to be,

"filled with the fruit of righteousness
that comes through Jesus Christ—
to the glory and praise of God."

You are a person saved by Jesus Christ. His glory is tied to how you live. The fruit of righteousness that you are to display comes through Him. Your righteous conduct results in God being glorified and praised.

Think of
Job. Satan had said to God that if God took everything Job had away from him that Job would curse God. All the heavenly host was watching. If Job stood and praised God, God would be praised. If Job failed, Job would bring dishonor to God.

In the same way, God's honor is tied up in your life, your holiness, your sanctification. The thought in our text is—since one day the great day of Christ is going to come—how holy you ought to be. You are to be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes from Jesus—to the glory and praise of God.

For those of you who are not Christians, on the day of Christ you will not be pure and blameless. You will not be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus. There will be no praise to God for you. For you have missed the whole purpose of your existence. To your everlasting shame it will be revealed that you did not choose what was best, but you chose empty, worthless, and vain things.

One of the worst examples of poor decision making I ever heard was the story of how one section of rapids on the Slave River in Northern Canada got its name. It's called Portage des Noyees, the portage of the drowned. In the early 1800's a group of explorers were going down the river in a group of canoes. They came to this rapids. The leader of the group decided to try the rapids with one of his canoes. He ordered the rest to stay put. He told them that if the rapids were safe, he would fire a gunshot, indicating that. He and the men in the canoe with him barely escaped with their lives. He had just started to walk upstream to the others to warn them not to hazard the rapids when one of his men saw some birds overhead and took a shot at one. The men above the rapids took that as the signal that it was okay to proceed down the rapids. They did so and they were all drowned. (From, "The Man Who Ate His Boots, by Anthony Brandt, p. 106)

What a stupid decision for that man to shoot at a bird. You who are not Christians should realize that your decisions are just as bad. They're worse than worthless. Go to Jesus. Only He can help you discern what is best, and present you faultless and without blame on the day when He comes. Go to Him before it's too late.