Imitating Those Who Imitate Christ
I’ve been blessed to have several people in my life who’ve exerted tremendous influence on who I am today. Continue reading . . .
“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Phil. 3:17-21).
I’ve been blessed to have several people in my life who’ve exerted tremendous influence on who I am today. My dad was by far and away the greatest example I’ve had. To be like him has always been my goal. Russ McKnight, who died a little more than 20 years ago, also exerted a huge influence on me as he did on several people here at Bridgeway Church. I was greatly affected by Dr. S. Lewis Johnson, who taught NT and Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary for many years and with whom I worked as an associate pastor for eight years in Dallas.
But there are also women who’ve had a life-changing influence on me. My mother, now 94, is certainly first among them. Joni Eareckson Tada is another. So too is Jackie Pullinger.
My point is not that we imitate others because they are divine and we are but mere humans. My point is not that we mimic their gestures or try to reproduce the sound of their voice or how they dress or how they walk. My point is that we ought to strive to imitate others to the extent that they imitate Jesus Christ. And these people I’ve just mentioned certainly did that.
This is what Paul is saying in Phil.3:17 – “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” He said much the same thing in 1 Corinthians 4:16 – “I urge you, then, be imitators of me.” However, lest you think Paul is an egomaniac and wants to spiritually clone himself in other Christians, listen to how he put it in 1 Corinthians 11:1 – “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
Paul doesn’t want them to imitate him in his role as an apostle, or in his preaching style, or in his personality, or in his unique spiritual gifting, but solely to the extent that he lives in self-denial and in imitation of Jesus Christ. It’s as if he’s saying, “Imitate me in precisely those areas in which I am nothing and Christ is all!”
And don’t forget that he has just confessed his own imperfection. He is all too keenly aware that he has not fully arrived. Thus, it is in the context of his own humility and self-awareness of his own shortcomings that he calls on others to imitate him.
He also acknowledges that this may be difficult given the fact that he’s in prison and they are in Philippi. So he encourages them to fix their eyes on others more close at hand, perhaps Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25-30) or even Timothy whom he is sending to them (Phil. 2:19-24).
We must never forget that sometimes truth and goodness and holiness are better caught than taught. So let me encourage all of us today to ask this question of ourselves: With whom do we “hang out”? Whose conduct do we study and imitate? Whose lives are serving as a model for our own? Is it some self-serving, egotistical athlete, or a morally degenerate actor or singer, or a multi-millionaire business executive whose ethics give pond scum a bad name?
Find those in whom you see Jesus Christ and “hang” with them, imitate them, and let their lives exert a positive and constructive influence on how you think and talk and live.
One more thing. I’ve said a lot about the importance of having godly, Christ-like role models in your life. But to what extent are you yourself a role model for others? Is this a goal you’ve set for yourself? Are you at a point in your relationship with Christ where other Christians might begin to look to you for advice, wisdom, and a pattern to follow? If not, why not?
To be continued . . .