Yesterday it was our pleasure to worship with and preach for the brethren at the Low Country Church in Goose Creek, South Carolina, where my friend Steve Brewer ministers.
As is often the case when we visit various congregations, I leave feeling like I received more than I gave. Yesterday was no exception. The Brethren warmly welcomed us with the right hand of fellowship. And some hugs. The atmosphere was encouraging. It felt like a family who truly enjoyed being together.
The Bible class taught by Ricardo Perry on the “Life of Christ” was especially insightful. Thought-provoking. And spiritually relevant. The focus of the class was we should be like Christ.
At one point Ricardo looked at a sister in the class and said, “Martha, you’re Jesus.” Everyone chuckled, especially Martha. I suppose if Martha felt like I do at times, I’m anything but Jesus. Yet the Bible admonishes us to imitate Him.
To the Corinthian brethren who had a lot of personal and congregational problems, Paul urged, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). While they were not, and we are not sinless, we must strive to be like Christ. “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Pet 2:21). Peter, the apostle was anything but sinless, but he was a follower of Jesus. He learned, sometimes the hard way, what it meant to imitate his Master.
The Hebrew Christians were admonished “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the outcome of their way of life, imitate their faith” (13:7).
In a similar way Paul encouraged the Philippians, “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil 4:9).
Regarding the importance of spiritual imitation, these passages remind us of three important points.
(1) First and foremost we must imitate Jesus Christ.
How did He live? Talk? Act? And interact with others?
From Jesus we learn compassion for the hurting. Love for sinners. And kindness to strangers. We see what it means to serve the Father. To suffer for righteousness. And to sacrifice for others.
We understand the significance of forgiving others. And see His example both in life and in death. Even toward His enemies. And those weak disciples who forsook Him.
He taught us what it means to minister “to the least of these.” Little children. The outcasts of society. Those racially discriminated against. Those who don’t look like us. Or share our socio-economic status.
Ricardo was right when he concluded the class saying, “Jesus Christ came to earth as a man to show us how man should live.”
(2) We should imitate the example of the inspired writers of Scripture.
Peter, Paul, James, and John, as well as other inspired writers provide examples of what it means to faithfully follow Jesus. We learn from their example. Of course, we also see their shortcomings, and those pitfalls to avoid.
The Bible also records the heroes of faith through the centuries who followed God by faith. Hebrews 11 speaks of their courage, determination, and dedication. These Old Testament examples remind us of what it means to obey God and follow His Word regardless of the challenges or the obstacles that seek to distract us.
(3) Spiritual leaders we know today are worthy of our imitation.
I think of pastors, preachers, and parents whose godly lives serve as a pattern that we can follow. They have imitated the attitude of Christ. Their lights shine. Their works speak volumes. They stood for Truth. Lived righteously. And weathered the storms of adversity.
As I reflect on Ricardo’s class, I have to ask, “Who am I imitating?” Am I conformed to Christ or culture? Am I following the way of the world, or the Word or God?
The exhortation of John needs to be heard and heeded in this wicked world “Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good” (3 Jn 11).
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman