Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Following by Example

1Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. 1Cr 11:1 ( NIV )

Paul knew personally the key to discipleship. It is following. It is about following Christ and following those who are following Christ.

Paul had heard and seen, up close and personal this Jesus who is the Christ. From the Scriptures he had read and memorized, Paul discovered the flesh and blood revelation of God’s Savior for mankind. Paul had also experienced the relational aspect of discipleship, from his rabbi Gamaliel and his brother in the Lord, Barnabas. Both men poured their life into Paul; one in the sense of following Judaism; the other in the sense of following Messiah.

Paul understood, from what he saw of Christ’s life, what he saw in the Holy Scriptures, what he had experienced from Gamaliel and Barnabas, discipleship is about following. But following what, following who?

Everyone is following something, even leaders. The best lessons we learn are the ones we “live through”. You may forget a seminar, a book or a speech, but you’ll never forget what you’ve lived through. We follow by example. It is awkward grammatically, I admit; but it is true none the less. We choose people we admire or look up to. We find people whose lives we seek to emulate. We see people we love and desire to be like them. We start to mimic them. Dress like them (that is why we choose eyeglasses like Rob Bell).
Read what they are reading. The list goes on and on. We see children do the same thing with their parents or grandparents. We follow by the example we see.

How do we choose whose example to follow? Well, Paul would be a good one. Authored more than half the New Testament, planted who knows how many churches, lead untold thousands to Christ. But notice Paul immediately points to the one he is following; Jesus. Paul is saying, “Watch me, do what I do, because I am watching and doing what Jesus is doing. We are following the same Lord.” No matter how many generations of disciples we make, we/they are all following the same Christ. What did Jesus say? “I only do what I see the Father doing. I only speak what the Father is speaking.” (Jhn 5:19 , Jhn 12:49 )

We need, all of us, to step back into the gospels and immerse ourselves in the life of Jesus. We are His followers, are we not? What did he say? What did he do? How did he live? He has so much to show us, so much to tell us. So let’s start with getting to know Jesus. Not the Sunday School Jesus; not the Institutional Christ; but the Jesus of the Scriptures. Allow the Holy Spirit to teach you; open your eyes and your heart to Jesus’ life.

As you are doing that, look around you. Who do you see that looks like the Jesus of the gospels? Look for the person who has Christ being formed in them by the Holy Spirit (Gal 4:19 ). Let them be your example with skin on. We need to follow the Jesus of the scriptures. We also need to follow those who are living Jesus’ life in the world.

Some of us have said to others, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.” It was difficult to say, even awkward. Some have said yes; others have left us with silence. That’s ok. Remember, it is a prepared work.

Show them your Master. Show them how to follow.


Anonymous said...

You're really chewing on all this discipleship stuff. I like the general thrust of your argument: the one we ultimately follow is Jesus. We are his disciples. Paul did not have his own disciples, and I would never want anyone to think of themselves as my disciple. I know we disagree slightly on this, but this is just where I'm coming from. Now, mentoring, that's a bit different, and I'd have no problem calling myself a mentor in the right situation. Paul, for example, was definitely Timothy's mentor. If I can live my life in such a way that it points others to Jesus, and if I do all I can in relationship with others to show them Jesus, then I have done my part.

Anonymous said...

Oh btw, did you read my post on the emergent frustrations? I was interested in your response.