In the midst of some Advent posts I want to continue to go through the book of Philippians because that is what my Bible study is doing. We are reading through the book and listening to teaching from Pastor Matt Chandler. Please read Philippians 3:15-21.
"Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you." Philippians 3:17
As Pastor Chandler taught on this passage one sentence stuck out to me and I'll paraphrase it for you: "Our faith is personal but not private."
"Our faith is personal but not private."
In this post I want to wrestle with that idea and with Philippians 3:17 and give you some ways to live that out.
"Our faith is personal but not private." If you are saved you have a personal relationship with God. You are adopted as a child of God and He knows you and you get to know Him intimately. But I fear that we teach that so much that we think that our faith is something we do personally. While personal disciples are great they are not entirely what it means to live a Christian life. Living a Christian life means needing others and being needed by others. As my pastor, Jim Lee, says and I've quoted many times: "Staying faithful to Jesus is a community project."
So, here a few ways we can put Philippians 3:17 into practice.
1) Find Godly men and/or women and put yourself under them.
The old expression is that every man needs a Paul and every Paul needs a Timothy. This means that we all need to be mentored/discipled by someone and we all need to mentor/disciple someone. But let me tell you this is hard. I don't think it is that hard to identify a Godly person... what is difficult is being vulnerable to them, but it is worth it. To be discipled in a powerful way you must be vulnerable, you must not whitewash your life in front of this person, you must bare your soul in an intimate way. This can be and often is hard but I strongly suggest you do it. Give this person the authority to instruct you and at times lovingly correct you. This takes humility but I will tell you that you will grow if you do this.
2) "... take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you."
Not everyone you learn from has to be a mentor. Find people that do things righteously and watch them. As Matt Chandler noted in his talk, these people don't need to be perfect, maybe they just excel in one are that you want to grow in. While it is very helpful if these are people in your town or in your church they don't have to be. Find an author whose books inspire you, find the YouTube page of a pastor that instructs you, find a blog that pushes you, just find people who are following Jesus and imitate their best qualities. As Matt Chandler said, you don't need to create a trail that has already been blazed.
3) Remember that people are watching you.
If you are watching others, I guarantee someone is watching you. Paul said in Philippians 3:17 "Join with others in following my example..." Do I feel like I could say this? No way! But here's the truth, it doesn't matter if I could say it because people are watching me anyway. If you have publicly declared that you are a Christian you will have eyes on you. Little ones in the church might copy the way you pray. Youth might take notice of the choices you make. Believers of all ages will and likely do have their eyes on you at least some of the time. So, remember that people are watching you. If we simply remembered this we would live differently. Okay, I know I live differently when I remember this truth. You and I are on display. Will we let our light shine or will we broadcast the same garbage as someone whose life has not been changed?
Your faith is personal but it is not private. We are all in this together as brothers in sisters in Christ. What you do matters to others. So, look for people to be mentored by and to mentor, take note of those who inspire and teach you and remember that people are watching you. Watch for Jesus in others, copy that and broadcast Jesus through your life today.