Remember whose child you are!
This is the counsel some parents give to their children to guide them in their behavior. It was also the counsel that St. Paul, sitting inside the walls of a Roman prison, gave to the Christians at Philippi.
When you have entered into a personal relationship with God through receiving Jesus Christ as your Savior, you have been reconciled to God. Christ lives in you and you are a new person. The old has passed away and the new has come. You have an inner longing to live as Christ would have us live. This is an inner change that is quite different from making a decision to change your lifestyle. You can make resolutions to reform. They are usually made with the best of intentions, but quite often produce no permanent changes. As much as we would like to do so, we simply do not have the power to change our lives.
However, the changes St. Paul is talking about are inner changes. The Holy Spirit works these changes in us through his Word. These changes become a part of our new nature. We want our life to change!
And so the Apostle writes, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body” (1:20). He wanted the Holy Spirit to send him a strong reminder whose child he was when there could be a temptation for him to soften his witness for Christ.
Likewise, Paul wrote to the Christians at Philippi, “Whatever happens, conduct yourself 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 one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the Gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you” (27). Let your light shine. Remember whose child you are.
Paul prayed that he would be a witness for Christ to the men who were appointed to guard him, and he wanted the Philippian Christians to be that same witness where they lived. This is God’s wish for our lives. Remember whose child you are.
The world has always watched Christians. It is no different today. Note how much time is given to the evangelicals and their influence in society. It is obvious from the writings of these journalists that they have a foggy view of the Christian faith. Some of them praise when they are impressed by the fruits of the Christian faith and are critical when the evangelicals show weakness. It seems that many in the media would be far more comfortable if the Christian proclamation were limited to one hour on a Sunday morning. They could handle that much of Jesus Christ.
It is in this environment that Paul tells us not to be ashamed of the faith and stand firm. Remember whose child you are.
When our lifestyles are no different from those who are unbelievers, the world questions God’s power and presence in our lives. When our actions are positive, and we live as God’s children, the world either responds with admiration and praise or lambasting criticism.
Let me illustrate:
Have you heard of Zach Johnson? If not, either you are not a resident of Iowa or you have no interest in the world of golf. Zach comes from Iowa. On Easter, April 8, of this year, he won the PGA Masters Golf Tournament. Then, on May 20, he won the PGA AT&T Golf classic.
After winning the Masters, Zach said that his faith helped him to keep his composure during an intense pressure situation. From news items since his victory, we have learned that Zach is a committed Christian and not ashamed to tell others about his relationship with Christ. His faith makes it natural for him to give thanks to God for all of his blessings.
Zach’s testimony drew many positive responses. I for one was thrilled when I head him give thanks to God for strength in a very tense situation.
However, Bob Ryan, a columnist for The Boston Globe, wrote, “Zach Johnson won because he played the best golf. He deserved to win, and he did win. But his crediting the Lord was both silly and offensive. Believe me, plenty of people have e-mailed me to object to his irrelevant flouting of his faith. Mixing sports and religion is very bad. One has nothing to do with the other.”
I don’t know how you respond to Zach Johnson’s comments, but I believe that St. Paul would have said, Bravo Zach! That is what I meant when I wrote to the Philippian Christians not to be ashamed of their relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, even if it did cause some hardship.
Zach Johnson let people know that Jesus Christ is his Savior and source of strength. He is willing to let the world know whose child he is. It is in the everyday life that our testimony really counts.
Yes, it was Easter Sunday, and thousands of sermons were preached on that day when Zach won the Masters. However, none were more powerful than the one preached on the golf course by Zach who told the world that Jesus Christ is alive and walked with him during the tense moments of this important game. He did not say that Christ gave him the victory or that the Lord favored him over the other players. He was just testifying that the Savior walks with his own.
That is what it means to let people know whose child you are.