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Living Out Faith Together

Philippians 1:27-28
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved – and that by God. (NIVUK)

True Christian faith produces action. The gospel is not just a nice story, it is a call to radical change of personal life and interaction with others. Lifestyle matters to God: the gospel calls us to reject ungodly behaviour, control our worldly passions and live to honour our Redeemer (Titus 2:11-14). The role of spiritual overseers is to remind those who believe in Jesus, to live knowing that Jesus is present (because we keep forgetting and drifting). Whenever believers get diverted away from gospel priorities, they become vulnerable to other voices from the world, flesh and devil, and are easily diverted away from practising their faith in Christ.

True Christian faith produces action. Belief is the reason for behaviour: or put the other way, we behave as we do because of what we believe.  In the face of so many competing voices from the world, flesh and devil, Pastors and Christian teachers not only have to reiterate the truth but urge believers to believe it and do it.  Their teaching, like the apostles', is not only addressed to individuals, but to the church family as a whole.  But when followers of Jesus worship, study, pray and witness together, something special happens.  Not only are believers encouraged to trust the Lord and not be frightened, but the quiet confidence of the Christian group (in a college or workplace) starts to be noticed.  When they live in a Christlike way and speak of Jesus as Saviour and Lord, they can support each other and reinforce the potency of the message.

In Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul uses the Roman army shield to represent faith.  Perhaps the imagery in this passage of standing firm together is another allusion to a squad of Roman soldiers whose battle shields interlocked all around and over their heads – rather like the shell of a giant tortoise – so that they could move together and not be afraid of enemy arrows.  In military terms it was the early form of the tank, and enemies realised that they would be defeated.  The corporate nature of the church induces fear in those who refuse to believe – that is why they try to break up churches in order to scatter believers – like lions breaking lone animals away from a herd in order to attack them more easily.  

Those who ridicule Jesus and oppose the cross, will start thinking again when they see their mean derision fail.  Indeed, the settled assurance which should radiate from believers reveals that they march to the beat of a different drummer, and clearly see a farther horizon.  Those who know Jesus are certain that He is their accompanying light through every dark tunnel: and that confidence is a serious challenge to those who reject Him (Acts 4:18-21).

Faithful Father God. Thank You for not leaving me alone, but giving me Your Holy Spirit, Your Word and Your people to walk with me through life. Forgive me when I am inclined not to worship and work with other believers. Help me to seek out those who love You, to be encouraged by them and to support their witness and godliness in life. And help me to be accountable to those who Pastor me; and to encourage them in their ministry too. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams