Thursday, May 11, 2006

In His Steps...

There is no cuter sight than to watch a little boy follow his Daddy, trying to do just as he does, walking like he walks, hands in pockets just like dad, imitating his every movement. We see the same in little girls as they play in their rooms with dolls, saying just what Mommy would say, dressing like mommy, mirror images of what they see modeled before them daily. For parents it is sometimes scary as we see ourselves mirrored in our children. Children model not only the good things, but the bad. Sometimes we hear them saying things we wish we had never let slip out of our mouths.
The old saying goes “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” We try to imitate those who are our heroes in life. Sometimes we choose our heroes well, and other times we tend to go with the flow...picking popular people, even if their behavior is not acceptable. As a result we find our youth mimicking rock stars,
actors and sports heroes. These ideals may participate in drugs, illicit sex, and fast life styles that are not the best role models for vulnerable minds to accept as heroes.
Paul tried to set the example for us in 1 Corinthians11:1 when he wrote.. “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ”. In other words, imitate me, when I do the things Christ would do and say. But when I am not, don’t imitate me. The question is, how did Paul imitate Christ? Was it his copying of Christ’s hairstyle and clothing? No, of course not. It was much more than that. To truly imitate someone, you must spend lots of time with them. Paul did not have that advantage as the other disciples did. Yet, I feel he succeeded even more so than most of the other disciples. Paul met Jesus face to face for the first time on the Damascus Road in a blinding light. From that moment on, Paul endeavored to make his life count by imitating Christ.
1. His obedience
We are a disobedient people today. Yet Jesus, who is our supreme example, walked in complete obedience to His Father. He knew that all that He had to accomplish required complete harmony and obedience with His Father. John 5:19 tells us “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does, the Son also does.” To walk in obedience to the Father, we must be close enough to know His voice, and confidently do what He tells us to do. We can be confident when we spend time in the Word of God, and prayer, when we can clearly distinguish between what God is saying and what the enemy tries to throw in to confuse us. His voice never contradicts His Word. God never tells people to kill other people because he says in His Word… “Thou shalt not kill.” But if we don’t spend time in the Word, we won’t know what it says. We won’t know His ways. We won’t know His voice. Then we become vulnerable, listening to whatever voices shout the loudest or make the biggest impression. If we know our Father, we will know his voice. Have you ever noticed in life there are certain people with distinctive voices? You hear them speak once… and you never forget their voice. You can hear them years later, and identify them just by the sound of their voice. That’s how we need to know our heavenly Father. The key is, not just knowing the voice, but doing what he tells us to do. That’s what Jesus did. He never did anything of his own accord. He only did what His Father told Him to do. He lived and walked in total obedience.
2. His love for People
One of the most noteworthy characteristics of Jesus is that He loved others more than He loved Himself. “A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). We are to love just like He did. Paul also confirmed that we are to love like Christ loved. “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Ephesians 5:1,2) When we think of the different humble ways Christ showed his love for others—washing his disciples feet, feeding the hungry, touching lepers and healing them, ministering to prostitutes—we have a long way to go to learn His ways of love. Paul tells us that we are “to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” ( Eph 4:24) If we are to be loving people, we need to put away the old ways of doing things, and put on the ‘new you’, the one modeled after Christ. The Creator of the world was willing to stoop down to the earth, wash dirty feet, touch corrupt bodies, and ultimately provide His own body as a sacrifice for sin. Loving each other means forgiving each other. “Be kind, and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ, God forgave you. Be imitators of God…..” (Eph 4:31-5:1) That love is modeled for us by Christ and is the pattern for marriage. Imitating Christ makes a man a Godly man. “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word…”(Eph 5:25,26) Having the mind of Christ means we are willing to think thoughts like Christ and let those thoughts motivate us to Christ-like actions. What is Christ doing? That’s what we should be doing. Just as Christ was willing to speak and minister to the Samaritan woman at the well, the outcasts of Jewish society, we should be willing to reach out to elements around us that others may ostracize because of poverty, race, religion, or culture. Old family prejudices must die in the family of God. That’s the demand of love.
3. His Sacrificial Giving
What messages of sacrifice do you send your family? What are you willing to give to God? Believers used to give God one day in seven. On that day they would attend church, usually twice, and spend the rest of the day with their family, influencing them for God. Today everything has changed. If believers spend four hours per month dedicated to God, they feel they have done their ‘duty’. They have no time for Bible studies with friends, devotionals at home. The example we set before our children and family is extremely important. Can you honestly say to your children, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ. Imitate my church attendance, my devotional life, my prayer life, my spiritual priorities in service to others for God?” When our lifestyle truly is a mirror of Christ, our families will want to be what they see...for they will see Christ in us. But if we are shallow, empty reflections, they will see the hypocrisy and turn away in disgust. They will measure Christ by what they see in you. If your time for yourself is more important than your time with God…they will notice, and will choose to follow a similar path. If you choose to hoard the blessings God has given, failing to give to God and to others, it sends a message that God’s not important, church is not important, prayer is not important. A new set of values is firmly established in the next generation. What are you giving to God today? Does it reflect a measure of what you want Christ to see in you? Is it a sacrifice? Is your sacrifice made with humility and genuine love? That’s the kind Jesus gave for you and I.
4. Knowing Him Intimately
I remember when my boys were little they would try to wear Dad’s shoes, and dress up in Dad’s clothes. They had to live in Dad’s house and spend time with Dad to want to be like him that much. Paul tells us in Ephesians 6 to “Put on all the armor of God…” Dress in Father’s protective clothing designed for spiritual warfare. There is nothing more valuable that we can pass on to the next generation than our love for God and our desire to know Christ in supreme intimacy. Paul considered everything else worthless compared to knowing Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:8) He so longed to know Him, that he called everything else ‘rubbish’. Not only did he want to know Christ, but he also wanted to know the power of the resurrected Christ, and the intimacy of His suffering, even willing to die for this intimacy. What are you willing to die for? Sacrifice for? The moment we pull away from God, begin living for our selfish interests, we make ourselves independent operators. We tell God, “I can do it myself.” Unfortunately, you cannot die for your sin. You can only die in your sin. The price for independent living is extremely high, and eternally long. While the world around us wants to boast in their ability to succeed, ultimately, when they face death, they all discover an element they forgot about in life...eternity.
We live in a skeptical world, filled with questioning elements that seek to undermine the strength of the message of Jesus Christ. Every man, woman, boy and girl must make a choice, one that will determine their eternal destiny. Most of those who question the validity of the message have never even read the message. They have listened to others and their opinions. Yet their eternal destiny rests in the way they choose. If you have doubts, go to the source of Truth… Jesus Christ, the Living Word of God, and read his love letter to the world. You will never be the same again!
Do you desire to be more like Christ? There is no magic quick fix pill to take to achieve it. It is a daily walk of faithfulness, commitment and love. It takes discipline, determination and devotion. It is a decision you must make. That decision will raise you to a higher lever, a closer place of intimacy than you have ever known before. Your choice will affect every aspect of your life….your church attendance, your finances, your job performance, your marriage, your relationships and most of all, your intimacy with God.
Whose footsteps are you following? Your heavenly Father’s, or satan’s? Step carefully and follow God with all of your heart! “ If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” ( 1 John 1:6-7) Are you walking in His steps? J. Johnson

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