Written by Stephen Cox
When I lived in Sydney, I struggled to see the stars. There were times when I looked into the sky and saw nothing. Even when the night was clear, millions of neon bulbs were fighting the starlight and winning. Sometimes it felt like the only way I could see real stars was through some “Tom and Jerry” style encounter with a frying pan.
“Shine like stars in the sky,” Paul says in Philippians 2. Easy for him to say – back then there was no electricity, no skyscrapers, maybe even fewer distractions. How are we supposed to shine like the bright stars that Paul saw in the sky? A great place to start is to remind ourselves, many times a day, that we are children of the heavenly Father.
God has adopted us as Christians; he has rescued us out of the blind, desperate poverty of the world (Paul called it the “domain of darkness”) and has brought us in to the affirming love of an eternal relationship with him (Col 1:13). God expects us to call him “Abba”, or Pa (Rom 8:15). We, his adopted children, have become sons to him, receiving not just a share in his own Son’s inheritance but the character that a father passes on. Perhaps the most striking visual description of God’s character is John’s : “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Paul describes our adoption like this: “You were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” Our very nature has been inverted. Naturally, we must now “live as children of light” (Eph 5:8).
In a similar way, Paul urges the Christians in Philippi, and us, to be true to the character of our adopted Father, to be obedient to his will as we explore the implication of this radical change in our lives. Paul writes:
Phil 2:12 – 15
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.
We are not earth-bound observers peering up at the stars. Rather, we are the stars shining brightly against the blackness of the world. Amidst a crooked and depraved generation that twists and evades the truth, we are to be blameless and pure. Because, as Paul writes to the Ephesians, “the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth” (Eph 5:9).
Blamelessness, purity, goodness, righteousness, truth. We see these attributes at the very heart of God. Is it possible for we, who were once children of darkness, to bear this kid of fruit? On our own it is impossible because it is too easy for us to be eclipsed by the darkness of this generation. But we are not on our own. We can and will shine in the darkness because God is at work in us (Phil 3:13).
Of course the star that shines the brightest in the heavens is Jesus. His humble life was intense and clear when he walked amongst us and he is our perfect example always (Phil 2:5 – 8).
As followers of Jesus Christ we are “the light of the world,” a light impossible to hide, bought in order to shine before all – to do good deeds – so that all may praise our adoptive Father (Matt 5:14 – 16). Therefore, we must live as children of the light, bearing the fruit of the light in our lives – all goodness, righteousness and truth – shining brightly in the world, like stars against the midnight sky, as we hold closely to, and reach out with, the word of life (Phil 2:15 – 16)