Paul makes a startling statement here: ''Don't just do what I say, but do what I do, model yourselves on me''. Paul was committed to unity within church fellowships, but not to the point where unity becomes a god. It appears that there were in the church at Philippi those whose conduct and lives were a scandal and known by many to be so. By their actions they demonstrated that they were not friends of Jesus but enemies, because they put off those who were hungry for salvation: people thought that, if they were to become like them if they chose to follow Christ, it would make things worse rather than better. Now, the implication Paul makes is that this group of people were committing immorality openly and unhesitatingly. In other words, it was part of their belief about life. There were those in the early Church who believed that individuals could not be called complete until they had experienced everything life had to offer, good and bad. Perhaps they distorted the principle of Christian freedom and of reliance on God's grace, but they embraced the depths of sin whilst justifying their actions as somehow drawing them closer to God. I would just like to dwell on this a moment. We know that everyone falls short of perfection: we will continue to sin until the day we die. The Emperor Constantine recognised this as he postponed his baptism until he was on his death bed, in the thought that he might then die without having sinned post-baptism! However, there is a clear distinction in God's eyes between falling short when our heart is fully committed to purity in our lives and being distraught for our failings-this brings us closer to God's heart of grace-and a cynical twisting of the message of Good News to give ourselves a get-out clause for whatever we do. In other words, when we confess our sins to God it has to come from repentant hearts eager to do what is right! Paul reminds us that we are citizens of heaven and in living as Ambassadors to God's Kingdom we receive and embrace the hope which we have received from the words and life of Jesus Christ. There are many who are struggling in these times and one of the many things which have caused this is a lack of hope. The old things-materialism, increasing wealth, greater fitness and wellness, fulfilment of ambition- have been threatened by the havoc caused by this pandemic. When all is stripped away, Jesus Christ is still Lord and He calls us to follow Him.
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