Words of Faith 6-29-17
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2017
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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1 Corinthians 11:1
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
No, I don't like the title of this devotion any more that you do. The idea of being an imitation anything sort of rubs the wrong way. We live in such a fake society with faux everything! It seems like being an imitation Christian would be ultimate insult to the Gospel. But this is exactly what Paul suggested to the believers at Corinth! "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ" (NASB).
Paul had just finished exhorting the believers at Corinth-- "Whether you eat or drink, do it all for the glory of God and without causing others to stumble." And how do we accomplish this? Paul says to imitate or mimic him. "Ever become imitators of me" is the literal translation. The Greek "mimetai" is the root for the English "mimic".
We think of mimicry as an unkind action that makes fun. The dictionary defines mimicry "to imitate or copy in action, speech, etc., often playfully or derisively". But Paul saw this sort of imitation as a positive tool that could help people in their walk with God. If we can see the Christian life walked out effectively in a person near us, we can begin to emulate those characteristics and qualities.
Paul had come to this place of Godly confidence because his life was one of imitation of Christ. To the Galatians, Paul declared-- "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (2:20). Paul sought by the grace of God to live the life of Christ. He sought to be alive only in Christ and so to be a model for Christian living.
This was not a unique exhortation. Paul encouraged imitation on other occasions. "Therefore I urge you to imitate me" (1 Cor. 4:16). "You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit" (1 Thes. 1:6). Our foremost point of imitation is God and the Lord Jesus-- "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children" (Ephes. 5:1).
Paul also encouraged imitation of other churches and believers especially when they had been through similar trials-- "For you, brothers, became imitators of God's churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews" (1 Thes. 2:14).
Paul exhorted imitation of the faith and patience of other believers-- "We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised (Hebrews 6:12). Peter saw this is a sort of protective way of life-- "Who is going to harm you if you are eager (imitators of) to do good?" (1 Peter 3:13).
Paul was bold enough to hold out his life as an example-- "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ" (11:1). Certainly Paul was not perfect, but there was nothing about his life that he could not commend to others. Paul had learned to surrender to the Spirit and walk with the Mind of Christ. He sought to carry the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus who made himself nothing, took the form of a servant and became obedient even to the point of death on the cross (Philip. 2:5-8).
An obvious question for us is whether we could say the same. Could we commend our lives and walk with God to others for the purpose of imitation? We are often fond of pointing out that we are not the one to follow-- only Jesus is the example for a Christian-- but Paul taught that discipleship is at least partly about following the example of Christ in another person.
There are probably times we would be comfortable with the idea of someone imitating us, but there are likely other points at which we would never want anyone thinking what we think, saying what we say, or doing what we do. There often can be a significant disparity between our private self and our public self that we think no one sees. And if this disparity represents a deliberate mask that we wear, it is what Jesus called hypocrisy.
The truth is that we all are being imitated. People look to us whether we like it or not. People notice what we say and do. Children are especially observant of the "real us". And this is all the more reason to be an imitator of Christ as we have seen Him in Paul and in others.
We are all growing in our in our walk with God as His Spirit sanctifies us but the life of discipleship is very much about seeing Jesus alive in another person and following that example of surrender so that Christ becomes more and more alive in us.
So are we all just a copy of a copy going back to the Apostles? Are we enormously degraded images, like a photocopy going back a two thousand generations? Not at all. The Spirit of God is alive in us giving a crisp freshness to our relationship with God. But we still learn quite vividly through relationships-- through imitation and that makes our careful walk all the more important.
The truth is, imitation Christians are very real! Not fake. Imitation Christians are those who are constantly learning through relationship what it really means to walk out the Gospel of Christ in the power of the Spirit.
Father God, help me to walk in a way that others will be able to learn and grow from. Shape what I think, say and do. Help me to shine with light of Jesus so that those around me may see You and glorify You. Keep my walk close to You both publicaly and privately. In Jesus' Name.