” Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;.”
Paul now starts his instruction to the church at Philippi by asking them to conduct themselves I a way that is consistent with the gospel message he preached to them. The word conversation in this verse means to conduct oneself, or your lifestyle. Before Paul arrived at Philippi, most historians believed there was a mix of religious beliefs that dominated the country, including Hinduism, Buddhism and animism. Paul was admonishing them that now, as Christians, they needed to show how Christians acted and lived their lives. They were now new creatures in Christ!
So how is a Christian supposed to act? How am I supposed to conduct myself? How about someone who just became a Christian? What expectations do we have for them? In a way, I am glad that after I got saved iin Iowa, I stayed in Massachusetts for 2 years before moving to Iowa because the mainline congregational church there did not have high expectations for me to change. The church I would eventually attend in Iowa would have had great expectations.
In the church in Mass, I remember walking back into the church for the first time. I had long hair, down over my shoulders, and was pretty well known around town as a drunk and a drug user. But the people in the church I grew up in were happy to see me and welcomed me warmly. God worked on my language first, taking away all those nasty words that just fill spaces in the sentence without adding any meaning – you know – those 4 letter words. And God di that quickly.
It wasn’t long before I scheduled a regular counseling session with the pastor, Dave Hientzelman. I loved these. He gave me the book “The Power of Positive Thinking” to read, and we discussed it each week, along with other things that UI was learning. I remember I had turned on the 700 club and heard Pat Robertson say I should read through the bible in a year, doing 4 chapters a day, so I did that twice in those two years. I remember walking into a salon somewhere and asking for a business mans’ haircut, and the girl said really? I also remember my coworkers surprise when I walked in with that haircut!
Changes were taking place for sure. I started buckling down at work, taking courses and learning programming. I got a promotion and took on a lot of responsibility, including being on call 24-7 in case something went wrong. People started to see the difference in me – my conversation had become more like Christ. 2 years made a big difference.
Now if I had been in some Pentecostal churches I know, these changes would have been way to slow. The hair would be a problem right away, and the expectation that I would act like a Christian would have been higher. It may have drove me away. But God chose to plant me for a while in the church I grew up in, where they just loved me. I never would have heard the gospel there, but it was a great place to grow in grace.
Be sure that when a new Christian comes your way that you allow God to change them in His time. Teach them, disciple them, show them, but don’t push them. God worked on you, and you must allow God to work on them. If you try to do God’s part, they will lose!
Lord, help me to never try and take your place. Help me to allow your Holy Spirit to mold and shape them into what you desire. Help me to walk with them through this transition. Help me to be patient and wise along the way. You alone must be the potter – I am still clay along with the one I am discipling. Help me to remember that.