Jeff Iorg, Gateway Baptist Theological Seminary president, called on ministry leaders to “shine brightly” in today’s dark world when he spoke in chapel at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College, Nov. 8.
Jamie Dew, NOBTS president, welcomed Iorg to the podium calling him “one of the most strategic thinkers and leaders in the SBC … particularly about theological education.”
Dew added, “He’s somebody that I trust, that I respect and that I esteem.”
Iorg began by describing a place in Southern Utah where stars provide enough light at night that visitors can walk down a hill to a seating area without needing a flashlight.
Remote locations, high elevation and low humidity make Utah’s multiple “stargazing parks” popular spots to view the stars.
“That image of the stars shining brightly against the darkness of the universe is the backdrop for today’s text,” Iorg said, drawing from Philippians 2:12-16. Iorg repeated Paul’s admonition in verse 15, “You shine like stars in the world.”
Iorg explained that the Christological passage, verses 5-11, that precedes the sermon text set the stage for Paul’s explanation in verses 12-16 for how believers must live.
“This passage (verses 12-16) outlines for us as ministry leaders what it means to shine so brightly against the backdrop of the darkness of the world … that we are noticeable in the difference that we make,” Iorg said.
Iorg said the phrase translated “work out” in verse 12 is used in other sources to refer to the process of solving a math problem by “showing the work,” Iorg explained. “In other words,” Iorg added, “act out the Christian life you claim to have.”
Living out the “Christian life” is possible only because God is at work in a believer’s life, Iorg said, pointing to verse 13.
“He is working out your salvation,” Iorg said. “It is only possible for you to work out the fullness of what it means to live a life committed to Jesus Christ in the power of God and in Him working through you to empower you to get this done.”
Iorg said the text names two specific areas in which a believer must live differently from the world—“mouths and morality.”
CONTROL THE MOUTH
Controlling the mouth means a believer must stop “grumbling, muttering, murmuring, and whining,” Iorg said, and cautioned listeners to “stop grumbling about how hard it is to be in the ministry.”
While self-care is important, Iorg urged pastors to remember that they are not alone in leading busy lives that demand sacrifice and inconvenience, and that others will be “embarrassed” for the pastor that complains.
“The Bible is speaking to us very clearly … that when you work out your salvation in the power of God in such a way that you are demonstrably a Christian in this culture, one of the ways it will show up is you will stop grumbling about everything,” Iorg said.
LIVE BLAMELESS LIVES
In regards to morality, believers will stand in “stark contrast” to today’s culture when they live pure and unadulterated lives, Iorg said.
“We are to live blameless, faultless lives in the face of a world that is perverted, distorted, twisted, and mangled,” Iorg said.
Iorg cautioned that some Christian leaders try to walk “as close to the edge of immorality” as they can, but scripture warns believers to stay far from immorality and evil. How believers speak and express their sexuality will make them stand out in today’s culture, Iorg said.
Iorg noted that despite academic success and 19 years as a seminary president, he finds his greatest fulfillment in sharing the gospel and seeing someone come to faith. Iorg urged listeners to “hold firm” to the gospel while “holding forth the gospel to others through sacrificial service.” When they do, believers will light the darkness and be the “thousand points of light” against a dark universe, Iorg said.
“We shine like stars when we act like the Christians we claim to be, when it shows up in our mouths and our morality, and when we offer the gospel and do so in a way that we pour ourselves out in sacrificial service,” Iorg said. “When we do these things, we shine like stars in the universe.”