Paul says to follow his example in Philippians 3:17. Here he adds an important point. I have both Twitter, Facebook, and other accounts where people “follow” me. Even though I try to be a good example, I don’t expect people to follow me in everything I do or believe. In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul says to follow his example but makes it clear we aren’t just following him but ultimately our example is Christ. “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (NIV2011). The image of Jesus is what we want to shine through us, so our example is Jesus.
“To be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). The Word is Jesus and following the Word is following Jesus as our example. We can look at the imperatives of the Word as examples of how Jesus lives. We can read the scriptures and see how Jesus handles situations. If we follow His example, we can’t go wrong. Paul was just a normal person like you and me, but he was following Christ just as we can.
Maybe we can be an example to follow as we follow Christ.
It does matter how we look to others. What do people see in you that they like? Could someone follow your behavior as a good example? Paul was bold enough to say follow my example and others who live the life he proclaimed. “Brethren, together follow my example and observe those who live after the pattern we have set for you” (Philippians 3:17 AMP). Us grace people often disparage the idea of behavior or performance. In one way, it is true that God has an unconditional love for us that performance and behavior can’t change. Our motive in life is not to try to impress God with our good behavior but to allow the image of Jesus to shine through us. Behavior is highly subjective.
The older generation always thinks the behavior of the younger generation stinks, but they forget they were once the generation that older people didn’t like. However, Paul intimates that there is a pattern in scripture which helps us live the life that glorifies God. There are many imperatives in this verse such as, “follow my example,” that show us the way to allowing Jesus to shine through us. We don’t look at these as ways to get points with God, but ways to show Jesus to the world.
Have you heard the saying, get your mind out of the gutter? The Apostle Paul says it a little nicer when he says to set your mind on things above. “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2 NKJV). So what does it mean to set your mind on things above, not things on the earth? Jesus told Peter “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s” (Matthew 16:23 NASB). There are things we have to do every day in our jobs, finances, and relationships, which all demand earthly attention. Yet we can look at all these things with a heavenly perceptive. You might even use the saying, “What would Jesus do.”
In The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence, though a humble cook, experienced life in the kingdom of God to its fullest by learning to commune with God each hour of the day even when doing his menial tasks. Our minds have the ability to multitask. Even when filling out a spreadsheet, you can be thanking God for His blessings. It is setting you mind on spiritual things such as the word, mediating and communing with God all day.
As grace people, we are not to think that grace doesn’t mean growing in the Word or just being our old selves. Some think that grace means doing whatever you want because God’s grace covers us and He won’t love us any less for what we do. Though that’s true, it doesn’t stop there. God’s gift of grace means that we now want to allow that grace to shine through us to others. There are plenty of scriptures telling us how that should be. We all come from different backgrounds, family situations, and lifestyles. I grew up in a Christian home so I knew what the Word expected of me.
But many people coming to Jesus didn’t have the opportunity to know the Word and lived apart from its admonitions. “1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3 NKJV). Because of our love for the Lord, we want His character to shine through us to the world.
We have the theme of a prism this year. It’s how Jesus shines through us in so many ways and colors. It all begins with our perception of who we are in Christ and then renewing our minds according to who we are in Christ. Look at these verses in Colossians. “1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3 NKJV).
Look at your position in Christ—raised with Christ, died in Christ, and hidden in Christ. You identity is found in Christ. That’s where everything you do and say begins. It means a whole renewal of your mind, which God didn’t reset at your new creation in Christ. Your mind still thinks the way it always did and now you have to reconstruct the mind, tossing out the old and replacing it with the new. First, we have to put it in our heart, and second, we set our minds on things above.
There are a number of scripture in which Paul says to “put on” something. Look at this verse in Colossians 3:12 and see what to put on. “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering” (NKJV). First, look at who we are in Christ. We are the elect, His specially chosen people, and His favorites. We are special to Him, after all, Jesus died for us. “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9 NKJV).
You are special apart from any works you might do. This is who you are in Christ. You are His special possession—a peculiar people—chosen before the foundation of the world. That’s amazing and it’s all by grace through the finished work of Jesus. God Himself handpicked you to enjoy His presence and to be a member of His family. You have been elected to a place set for you in the heavenlies. What a privilege it is to be one of God’s elect.
Why do you do what you do? Is it for fame and fortune? Is it simply for goodwill? Is it to obtain a better name and notoriety? Well, the Apostle Paul has a word for you. “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17 NKJV). Can you say it is all for Him. “Him” of course is Jesus. Most of us probably don’t even think about why we do things each day. We have our routine from the moment we get up until we go to bed.
For example, I sit at my computer a great deal of the day and even write inspiring articles (like this one) without thinking why am I doing this. We need to take a moment and just thank God for Jesus and remember that we are doing whatever we are doing in the name of the Jesus. I’m writing this in the name of Jesus. He is motivation to speak or do something each day. That includes even the seemingly menial tasks such as putting in a load of clothes. Whatever you do, do it in the name of Jesus.
A couple of days ago we looked at the word admonish. In scripture, it comes across as being harsh. “I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you” (1 Corinthians 4:14). Sounds like a parent who says to their child, “I’m warning you. You’ll get a spanking if you do that.” The original Greek meant, “To speak in a friendly way.” It had the idea of to urge to do or not do something. It was more about encouragement than potential punishment. As believers, we have two types of people we might admonish. There are unbelievers and believers—brothers and sisters in Christ.
To the unbeliever we urge them to receive Jesus as Savior. It’s not so much to warn them about hell but share the goodness of God that leads to repentance. We urge them to see a good God who loves them and has great plans for them. To the believer, it means to console and to refresh. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16). Admonish with grace.