Today, I have the privilege of introducing you to Carole Sparks, a woman I met online through a Bible study writers’ Facebook page in which I participate. We often share our posts with each other, and hers often stand out. I’ve learned we have quite a few things in common, including a desire to run injury-free, a hope to publish a Bible study, and a life partly lived in East Tennessee. Most of all, she has a passion for digging deep in the Word that I share, and her writing is so well done that I wanted to share it with all of you. I hope afterwards you’ll visit her at her own blog, Not About Me.
By Carole Sparks
As I walked out the door with my teenage swagger, keys jangling on the end of my finger, my mother always called out, “Remember your last name!” I was not, in general, a forgetful person, and I had known my full name since before I started kindergarten. I sighed every time, but her words gave me pause and probably saved me from multiple embarrassing situations. Why?
Her reminder wasn’t directed at my mental faculties but at my moral standards. Because I bore this surname, I represented this family—like it or not. Full transparency? Sometimes I didn’t like it. (Hey, I was a teenager. *Insert residual shrug here.*)
As followers of Christ, we bear another name.
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. –Philippians 1:27 NIV
Christians are called to a standard of living that represents Christ well. I could give you biblical lists of what it means to “live up to” Christ’s standard, but short answer? It’s all about love (something that’s been on my mind recently). Instead, let’s think about the phrase “manner worthy,” that is, standards.
The word standard has two primary meanings.
First, it means an expected level of performance or an approved model used for comparison. A standard is the example by which other objects are measured—tangible or intangible. A ruler is a standard for measuring length. One inch must be one inch, and we determine the length of something else by comparing it to the ruler.
Christ Jesus is our ruler (i.e. measuring stick), so to speak, because He set the standard for how we live while on earth. Without falling into legalism or comparisons, what are the reasonable expectations for a follower of Christ? How does the New Testament model Christian living? Based on how we live, do you and I deserve the incredible honor of being called Christians? How can we adjust our lives to “live up to” Jesus’ example?
Second, a standard is a representative flag or banner. My mind goes to medieval battles with knights riding under this or that flag. They followed their unique standard into and through each battle. How do we live in such a way that our lives are worth following?
Paul often encouraged people to follow his example, including later in this same letter to the Philippians.
Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. –Philippians 3:17 NIV
Whew! That’s a lot of pressure. There’s not only the standard of Jesus, whom we follow, but also the responsibility to be the standard others follow. I’m not sure I’m up to that. What about you?
Here’s the awesome news: We don’t do it alone. There in 3:17, Paul says, “Join together in following my example,” and here in Philippians 1:27, I didn’t give you the whole verse above. Watch this:
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. –Philippians 1:27 NIV (all of it)
Did you catch it? Striving together as one. In order to live at this high level, to match and model the standard for the Christian life, we must function in community—like a team of knights following their prince’s standard into battle. We’re standing firm. We’re striving together, and this is how we conduct our lives in a manner worthy of the label we bear.
Do you have a community that helps you live up to Christ’s standards, a group of believers willing to work for worthiness? We can’t do this on our own, so whether it’s in-person or on-line, I encourage you to find a small group willing to be authentic and strive together under Christ’s standard for the standard He has set.
Carole is passionate about God’s Word—about how it can change our everyday lives! After years of globetrotting, she now lives, learns, and loves (plus a good bit of writing) in the hills of East Tennessee. Connect with Carole through her blog, Not About Me, on Twitter, Facebook, and/or Instagram.