Your progress in discipleship will be greatly enhanced if you can find someone in your life to be a pacesetter. We all do best if we have an example to follow. If you look back over your progress in the faith, you will find this principle illustrated many times.
As clear as this principle is in scripture, modern Christians often say the opposite. You would not have to hang around church too long before you heard someone say, “Don’t follow my example; follow the example of Christ.” It sounds spiritual, but it is so wrong.
Jesus didn’t ask us to simply do what he said; He asked us to follow His example. Jesus knew his disciples needed an example:
I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. John 13:15 (NIV2011)
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21 (NIV2011)
You might be tempted to think that this was good for Jesus because He was Jesus. It was also true of the Apostle Paul:
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NIV2011)
Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. Philippians 3:17 (NIV2011)
You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 1:6 (NIV2011)
Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 1 Corinthians 4:16 (NIV2011)
That last verse is an interesting one. The word Paul uses is mimetes. We get our word, “mimic” from this word. Paul goes on to say, “For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.” 1 Corinthians 4:17 (NIV2011) Follow my example; for this reason I have… sent Timothy? I would have expected Paul to say, “Follow my example, for this reason I am coming to see you.” Paul had discipled Timothy so well that he could send Timothy in his stead. To follow Timothy’s example was to follow Paul’s example.
Paul says of the believers in Thessalonica, “And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.” 1 Thessalonians 1:7 (NIV2011) The HCSB translates it “example.” Here, Paul uses a different word, tupos. We get our words “type,” and, “type writer” from this word. Think of a typewriter striking the paper. Every time, it makes the exact same impression on the page. It was used by Thomas in John 20.25 when he said that unless he saw the nail marks in Jesus’ hands, he would not believe. The nail marks. The marks left by the nails. The Thessalonians had been marked by Paul’s life. He had (literally left an impression on them. Now, they were making an impression on all the churches in the area.
This is how the gospel is transferred—from one life to the next. From one generation to the next, one man marks another man who marks another who marks another. We follow human example.
I have just released a series of 13 lessons that go in depth into each of these principles. (One introductory lesson, and one lesson on each of the 12 principles.) If you are a member of Good Questions Lesson Subscription Service, you already have access to these lessons. If not, they will be available on Amazon soon.
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