Sentinels For Christ :: Shining Stars

Shining Stars

Posted by jimgrier on December 30, 2018

“That you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” Phil 2:15 ESV. 

This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible, though possibly for a different reason than you might suspect! Have you noticed how easy it is when you’re just trying to follow Jesus to come up with a complex about how much worse others seem to be than you?   It’s one of the sneakiest forms of pride because its covert. I’ve often heard this verse used to illustrate how we are supposed to live. How we are supposed to live though is an assumption. Philippians 2: 15 is not an assumption, it’s a reality. It’s a rich affirmation of a deep relationship with God that centers around the wonderful theme of Holy Spirit powered “light,” and how it comes about. 

Time to go wading.

We’re all familiar with this “light” issue.  Even if we’re not churched. Who can forget the unforgettable saying of Jesus: 

 “You are the Light of the world, a city set on a hill cannot be hidden neither do men light a lamp and put it under a basket but instead put it on a lampstand so it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine so that men see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven[1] 

Some of your Bible translations might refer to you shining as “stars” in the world. I love that term. It comes from the same root word with connotations of light, luminosity, brilliance, a lamp, a star you get the idea. Perhaps what the passage doesn’t imply is actually the most important. 

It’s amazing when you read the writings of Paul how many inferences of the Sermon on the Mount repeatedly are threaded through his writings demonstrating the work of a master weaver. This reference in Philippians is one such instance, Paul the apostle, either secondhand from the disciples who were there that day listening to Jesus or by direct revelation from Jesus reflects on our “shining” and what it means in the world.

When Jesus sat down and began to teach his disciples in Matthew five it would have been no doubt the twelve and the circles of men and women who followed him and his teachings. It would also have included the crowd and the onlookers who were privy to the world’s most renowned sermon. Jesus addressing his disciples, begins with the Beatitudes… “Blessed are those who” are poor, mourn, are meek, thirst for righteousness, are merciful, are pure in heart, are peacemakers, and yes are persecuted.” These are the identifying characteristics of those who profess to follow Jesus, those who are called disciples. It is after this “credentials test” that Jesus explains how the disciple’s life interrelates with the world…. 

They shine. 

When we choose to follow Jesus we don’t shine because of good works. We shine because of the response to the call of Christ that demands discipleship. It’s a gravely serious yet unapologetically joyful call which restores us with Father; which restores the broken path of Adam. We don’t shine because of noble virtue, we shine because the life of a Christian, (at least a serious one that is), is the complete opposite of what the world holds dear. The soul of a human being confronted by the reality of Jesus Christ, his life his death and his resurrection ultimately has two choices. One is to veer away from the truth or the” light” which is clearly explained and presented in Jesus parable of the sower, (Matt 13).  The other is to be permanently changed in what can be only construed as an emotional, spiritual unravelling.  Or if you prefer “a radical change” as is often easily thrown around these days.  What’s the result? Poverty of spirit for one; a mourning (empathy) for the lost of the world; humbleness in the face of who we are before Christ; “a thirst” for a future promised righteousness that surpasses understanding; mercy towards others as God was merciful towards us; purity of heart in an undefiled conscience because the spirit has been freed from the chains of sin; and a passion for peace in preparation for the future kingdom on which the corner stone is Christ or “God’s goodwill and peace towards men and women.” 

The light Paul is talking about is no simple “Christian veneer” that appears as a good person or “light” against the backdrop of the world and just so happens to go to church, serves as an elder or runs a small group. It’s a supernatural light because the supernatural Spirit of the Son of God lives in his disciples and initiates the call to discipleship. Let’s return to the Sermon on the Mount because it’s important to understand a particular sequence in Jesus teachings.  In fact, its critically important.  If you don’t get this, you may remain observing the parade and not be a partaker in the parade itself. 

First note the people receiving this message are disciples of Jesus. Jesus will then “brand them” or identify what a disciple is by the subsequent Beatitudes. Jesus is talking to those whom he loves, whom he already knows will follow him so he wants them to make sure they understand exactly what discipleship is, what it looks like and what it really means to be blessed in the Kingdom of God. Don’t be fooled, without the Son and the life within us, a human being has absolutely no idea what discipleship is. It’s impossible for them to do so “He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.[2]” Take a hard look at those Beatitudes and marvel in them for these are the disciples of Jesus Christ!  They are the complete anti-thesis of the world because they have no inheritance with its present form. They mourn because they understand it. They are poor in spirit because they embrace none of the world’s priorities. They are meek because they have no worldly power, nothing to share except unrelenting truth often rejected. They hunger and thirst for righteousness because they are well aware by the revelation of the Son living in them their present state is as far from what God intended for humankind as it gets. This self-realization produced supernaturally by the Spirit then takes its form in a life that is clear in conscience transforming them in that… 

They are merciful…

They are pure in heart…

They are peacemakers…

And then to make sure that Jesus hearers understand exactly where this leads so that they won’t get caught up in some type of middle class half-baked sense of Christianity or mediocre faith he says twice… 

They are persecuted. Yes, that’s an intrinsic part of being a disciple and not for coming in late repeatedly at work but for your faith, persecuted for the “light” that shines within you so you are marked by the world and hated by it.  I wonder at the great lengths the church goes to today to become a friend of the world, of the government, of the school board, Jesus never said to do that.  He did however exhort us to not be overly foolish and antagonistic.  Disciples of Jesus will be, not “may be” persecuted.  That’s a sobering thought! 

This is the character of a disciple of Christ or a “Christian” whose life shines as it has been confronted by Christ and responds in obedience and faith.  Now with the terms of the agreement between the disciple and the Master clearly laid out Jesus lets his followers know what that means.  Because you are my disciples, “You are the salt of the earth…” “You are the light of the world and a city set on a hill cannot be hidden, nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bucket but instead place it on a lampstand so that it gives light to all that are in the house.” “In the same way let your light shine so men see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Don’t miss this, this is critical.  The light Jesus just explained as the life of the disciple is the good works that glorifies God in heaven a transformed life. 

Contrary to popular belief the “works” that Jesus is talking about in his description of the disciple are not actions, or acts or things that we might do. They can’t be. Many people in this life do good works. There are sincere Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons, Muslims and many people from differing faith backgrounds, that do good things for their fellow man. Individual citizens bequeath entire estates to worthy causes.  Isn’t that a good thing? Yet none of these glorify God, they glorify man. The acts that glorify God are done by those whose lives reflect the litmus test of the Masters credentials. The meek, the powerless, the reserved, those whom the world does not know and does not recognize. The works Jesus is talking about are aspects of a human being’s character, retooled, and remade by the phenomenon of discipleship. 

We are very good in the 2nd millennium church at “doing things” for Christ. However, if I’m going to be honest in my own faith journey, I’ve noticed it is extremely easy, almost seductive to hear an inspirational message that’s convince us “this is a good thing” and then act upon it. Implementing the suggestions of Sunday is not in itself discipleship. Over the course of my life countless times I’ve been inspired to act in response to conviction and at the same time I was far from the reality of discipleship. Don’t get me wrong, we need to do practical things, Jesus was very clear about this. But acts that are done preemptively to discipleship no matter how good mean little in implementing Kingdom priorities. How do we know this to be true? Because repeatedly in the Gospels Jesus confronts those who attempt righteousness without discipleship as lost, implying that they are spiritually blind, not only those who were already religious but also those who also appeared sincerely to seek righteousness and come to Jesus with some hard questions but left confused. 

We become light or “shine like lights in the world” after our character reflects genuinely the marks of a disciple as Jesus taught. Imagine how if this litmus test was held up against Christian leadership (or the Christian life in the church today) how it would be received? If I could offer a guess, probably not very well. It’s personally sobering isn’t it?  The works that Jesus is implying are not he works of a “good Christian principled life.” There are plenty of folks already doing this with no association to Christianity at all. The works Jesus valued and as Paul understood, are a life reflected by the Beatitudes, the life of a disciple.  

How the world would be a different place if the church would get on with the business of developing disciples reflecting Jesus concerns over converts! Thankfully, we find the faithfulness of God were faith is remiss, “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened.” “For anyone who asks receives he who seeks finds and to him who knocks the door will be opened.” 

Perhaps this simple exhortation takes you at a point in life where the path has taken some awkward turns or the “bread of life” has grown somewhat stale.  The Good Sheperd seeks the sheep, he never abandoned them but calls them by name and they hear his voice.  Let’s strive together to spend more time in the sheep pen learning to be disciples.  Also, if you have yourself in a fellowship that is producing disciples and if they are, are they disciples of whom? 

J.P. Grier 

M.S. Counseling M.C.M. Pastoral Counseling 

JP Grier is the founder and writer at - A network of Christians helping each other to press deeper in Christ.

[1] Matthew 5: 14-16. 

[2] 1st John 5:12 NAS

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