Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control. (NLT)
Arriving home from a road trip tired, we felt like grabbing takeout, but decided to stay on budget by making homemade tacos instead. That evening some friends from church texted asking if they could bring food the next night, since they knew we’d be tired and wouldn’t feel like cooking.
I felt so pampered, the next evening, opening the door to their family. Each of them held a bag or two for the feast, including Bill Millers BBQ, veggie trays, fruit trays and ingredients for making festive punch. “It’s a special occasion”, they repeated, insisting we were tired after our long journey. They thanked the Lord for our safe return while blessing the meal and fellowship.
Laying in my bed that night, I pondered the day God gave. He made me realize, He answered my prayer for another godly example to emulate. My friend simply followed her warm prayers for others with love-filled actions. In doing so, she fulfills the command to love God and love others. (Luke 10:27, Romans 13:8, Galatians 6:2, 1 John 4:7,11)
In today’s scripture passage, Paul urges believers to follow his example and others who walk as Jesus walked. The apostles modeled their lives on Jesus’ earthly ministry. We have the privilege of witnessing both Jesus’ ministry, and the apostles’ ministries as we study the New Testament. We also find this idea of mirroring the apostles in 1 Corinthian 4:16 and 1 Corinthians 11:1. Paul says directly, “Imitate me”.
Of course, it starts with knowing God through encountering Jesus.
Jesus stated in John 14:9, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Jesus was born both fully God and fully man. (John 8:54-59) He was sinless because He was God in the flesh, perfect and blameless, undeserving of death (John 1:14). Born to take our sin upon Himself (John 3:16, 2 Corinthians 5:21). He was also fully human in order to pay the death our sins deserve (1 Peter 2:24). Jesus also said, “Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die.” (John 11:26) That is the power of the gospel.
The apostles lived with Jesus throughout His three year ministry. Paul met Jesus after His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:8). Paul, not one of the 12, considered himself least among the apostles. Before his conversion he caused the death, imprisonment and suffering of many Christians. His life drastically changed when He met Jesus on the road to Damascus. (Acts 9) From then, he grew in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. He was forgiven much and so loved much, continuing Christ’s ministry in God’s will and power and not his own. (Luke 7:47, 1 Corinthians 2:3, 2 Corinthians 12:9)
Christ’s grace of forgiveness and eternal life changes all of us. Though many of us can’t boast of such a dramatic encounter with Jesus as Paul, we as believers all have that personal relationship initiated by Jesus Himself. We answered in faithful prayer, believing that Jesus will raise us from death as He rose.
We now have both an unfailing promise, and high bar as one of God’s children.
Today’s passage reminds us, we are citizens of heaven and our assuredness of hope is in Christ. Let’s allow that reality to really sink in, and affect how we live.
We perform not to gain favor, for we already have favor in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). We perform in thanksgiving of this favor given to us. Not out of obligation, but of joyful compulsion. We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19, Romans 13:8)
Another great place to find godly lives spent for Jesus is, Foxe’s ‘Book of Martyrs’. We may pattern our lives in their likeness, as they responded to God’s love, grace and forgiveness. It’s such an encouragement seeing how God’s Holy Spirit is evident in ordinary people. Of course our ‘calling’ may differ slightly, yet our mission is the same. We must be the hands and feet of Jesus. Walk in His Spirit, and build our lives in Him. Be salt and light in the world, and bring glory to His Name.
And so, we seek to imitate Jesus, the apostles and the great cloud of witnesses who have come before us. (Hebrews 12:1)
Lord Jesus, You are love. Your loving sacrifice set us free from sin and death to follow You. Grant us sober minds to avoid the distractions and cares of this world. Enable us to focus on You and Your mission. You are the reason we can and ought to love others. Thank-you for showing what it is to love like You, as a son imitates a father. Help us learn better how to be who we’re reborn to be, in Christ. ~Amen.
Read also Unchanging. God is so worthy of our right response.