Being an Example
17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.
A. “Please Let People See Jesus in Me”
1. I really did not intend to look at this topic today, but God just laid on my heart in several different ways this week and they all have come together in this message today.
a) That happens a lot – God just points me in a direction and then stirs my heart up about something that is resolved by what He has been showing me all along.
b) What I got stirred up about was an understanding about the source of so much moral confusion in the world today that has been caused by “Critical Theory”.
c) That is a theory developed by Karl Marx and others that critiques everything and tears everything down so that it can be rebuilt according to a person’s own self-centered desires.
d) There is a lot more to this, but this kind of thinking is at the root of most of the moral confusion today and that is exactly what Satan is trying to accomplish in the world.
2. As I prepare to preach or teach anywhere I am in the world, I always ask God to fill me with His Spirit and to let people see Jesus in me instead of me.
a) Occasionally God lets me see how He has answered those prayers.
b) Bro. Andy reminded me this week of a session on prayer I taught in China several years ago.
c) At the end of that session a young lady came up to me weeping, stood in front of me, and said, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!”
d) I immediately told her that what she was seeing was Jesus in me as I taught.
3. Then later this week I was talking to one of our neighbors and he said, “When I talk to you I feel like I am hearing the Lord!”
a) Again I told him that He was hearing Jesus in me and not me.
b) I think that what the Lord wants us to know is that Jesus in us is the answer to so much of the moral confusion we find in the world today.
B. Moral Confusion in the World Today
1. Philippians 3:17 “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.”
a) When you first read this a person who does not know Paul might think, “Who but someone full of themselves would say, “Brothers, join in imitating me?”
b) But when you really look at some of the facts from the life of the Apostle Paul and some of the things in the context of this verse you will come to a very different conclusion.
2. First of all, the moral confusion of the world of Paul’s day was very great.
a) People needed moral and spiritual examples that could be trusted.
b) It is exactly the same in the world today!
c) Paul did not back down from this duty, and he encouraged other believers to take on the responsibility of being a Christian example.
d) You and I need to do the same!
3. Secondly, the context of this verse shows clearly that Paul in no uncertain terms said that he was not perfect.
a) 12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
b) Paul says that the only worthy example of a Christian is the person who admits he is not perfect but is nonetheless pressing on.
c) He also has just said that he personally has no righteousness of his own, that any righteousness he has is provided by Christ.
d) So the only righteousness others see in Paul is the very righteousness of Christ Himself.
e) It is the same with us today, too.
f) None of us is perfect and the only righteousness we have in us is Christ.
g) We need to let others see Him in us and let them know that any good in us is Him and Him alone.
4. Thirdly, Paul tells the Philippian Christians to imitate not only him, but also other Christians who walk according to the example you have in us”.
a) “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us..”
b) So Paul guards both himself and those he disciples in this statement.
c) He guards himself against the pride of thinking that he is the only exemple, and he guards them against following him exclusively, which could create a cult.
d) But Paul lovingly and boldly asks them to imitate and follow him.
e) And just like Paul, we should be examples of Christ today for people who are confused by the moral challenges in the world today.
f) We should be saying, just like Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:1 “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
I. The Practice of Making Disciples
A. Jesus modeled being a personal example
1. Making disciples is really very practical.
a) Jesus did is by first of all being a model that other people could see and wanted to follow.
b) Only after they saw who Jesus was did He give them the commandment to do the same thing with others.
(1) Jesus commandment makes disciple-making the responsibility of each and every Christian.
c) Then He showed them clearly way to accomplish what we might think it a difficult thing to do.
2. The New Testament model for disciple-making is in personal example, and each Christian is expected to supply such an example.
a) The truth is that people will either take you as an example of Christ, or as an exemption from Christ.
b) You cannot escape the exerting of influence, the setting of example with your life.
c) D. L. Moody was probably correct when he said, “Of one hundred men, one will read the Bible, and the other ninety-nine will read the Christian.”
d) You see, everything we say is a profession of faith, and everything we do is an example of faith — our example will either prevent or encourage faith in the lives of others.
e) We daily influence our intimates and the immediate circle of associates just beyond them, whether we are conscious of our influence or not.
f) We simply cannot control our influence, though we certainly can largely control the kind of influence we exert.
3. Behind these ideas rests a gigantic law of spiritual life: Christianity’s first attraction to human beings is generally personal.
a) Historian Robert Wilken said it wisely when he said, “Before people are doers, they are first spectators.”
b) Christianity is not only audible, it is also visual and tangible
c) 1 John 1:1-3
(1) 1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ
d) So it must have examples as well as proclaimers.
e) This is one of the roles Jesus plays for mankind—“leaving us an example, to follow in His steps” (I Peter 2:21).
4. This is a key role for every disciple-maker and for every believer.
a) You cannot expect those you disciple to be what you are not, or to do what you do not do, or to go where you do not go.
b) It is true that the disciple-maker’s life must not be the end of the disciple’s quest, but merely the example of one seeking to be a follower of Christ.
c) But it is example that gives credibility to what you say to others.
d) Jesus is the example of this standard in the life of a believer and a disciple-maker long before he said anything about it to others.
B. The Mandate
1. The responsibility Paul presents is two-fold
a) “join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.”
b) Paul had to show it and say it
c) The Philippian readers had to see it and submit to it.
2. The two key verbs, “join in imitating me,” and “keep your eyes on those who walk,” are both in the present tense.
a) Pastor Rick Yohn, in his book, Living Securely In an Unstable World, wrote, “In my later teen years, I had the privilege of being supported by a number of mature Christian men.
b) They spent time praying with me, counseling me, and encouraging me in my Christian walk.
c) I developed a boldness for witnessing by following the example of one man.
d) I established a consistent prayer life by following the example of another.
e) I developed a deep desire for studying the Scriptures by following the example of a third.
f) The more I associated myself with such men, the more I experienced a personal spiritual growth and the sanctifying work of God’s Holy Spirit.” (The italics are mine, not the author’s).
g) I can assure you that you are following somebody’s example in your life right now.
h) You spend your minutes, days, weeks, months, and years living out the influence that people have exerted on your life.
3. “Keep your eyes on those who walk,” Paul says.
a) The Greek word translated her is the word “skopos,” from which we derive our English word, “scope” as in “We scoped it out” – a careful and critical examination.
b) The word means to “keep an eye on.”
4. The word, “example” in our text is an important word.
a) The Greek word is “tupon,” from which we get our word “type.”
b) The word “type” is a special word, and it has a specialized meaning in the New Testament.
c) It comes from a root that means “to strike,” and it describes the creating of an impression by striking the image into a receptive surface.
d) It was the impression or figure made by a seal or a die, as with the die used in minting new coins.
5. The example of a Spirit-walking Christian is the only trustworthy impression most people will ever have.
a) But it is pretty clear that Christians do not automatically set a Christian example for others to follow.
b) Unless you and I are “imitators” of Christ, we will leave false impressions with others as to Who Jesus is and what Christianity is all about.
c) The impressions we make are the result of a die already cast, a Life already lived—and we have been stamped with the Image of it – the image of Jesus Christ!
6. So you need to constantly ask yourself, “Is my life worth copying?”
a) Would someone want to live in heaven among people who have lived their lives by the impression I have made on them?
b) Paul’s letters in the New Testament show that this idea is very common in his writings.
c) 1 Thessalonians 1:7 “You were examples to all that believed in Macedonia and Achaia.”
d) 1 Corinthians 4:16 “I urge you, then, be imitators of me.”
e) 1 Corinthians 11:1 “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
f) There is Paul’s qualification—follow me, but only as I follow Christ!
g) 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9, Paul put the appeal even more powerfully: “You know how (why) you ought to follow us: for we did not behave ourselves in a disorderly fashion among you: neither did we eat any man’s bread without return; but we worked with labor and pain night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Nor because we have no rights, but to makes ourselves an example unto you to follow us.”
h) So you and I as Christians should make self-conscious effort to provide the right example, and to appeal to those we disciple to follow that example.
II. The Personal Model for Disciple Makers
A. The original model of disciple-making was Jesus Himself.
1. From all eternity, He had been His Father’s disciple.
a) When He came to the earth, Jesus taught a small group of men and made them responsible to teach others.
b) He made disciples, each of whom was then responsible to make other disciples.
c) We could say that He not only made disciples, He made disciple-makers, and they then trained other disciples, who in turn would also become disciple-makers.
d) So an ever-enlarging network of trained disciple-makers emerged from the training process which Jesus initiated with His Twelve.
2. A generation later, Paul emerges as a Christian who functioned in the Spirit and Vision of his Master because he had seen Jesus at work in the lives of those who discipled him.
a) Though Paul had apparently never seen Jesus in the flesh, he was so influenced by His disciples that he learned about being a disciple of Christ (remember Stephen, Acts 7) and building disciples (remember Barnabas, Paul’s disciple-maker) from them.
b) In turn, Paul said to Timothy, “The things which you have heard from me, the same things commit to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).
c) This is simply an extension of Jesus’ own life through His living in the lives of others.
d) Jesus said, in effect, “The things that I, Jesus, have heard from My Father, I have committed to (invested in) twelve faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”
1. First, Paul was a man of dissatisfaction but it was a healthy.
a) Anybody who has studied the life of Paul knows that Paul was very dissatisfied before he became a Christian.
b) And his dissatisfaction was intense!
c) There are some people who choose not to be satisfied no matter what is done for them,.
d) They are always unhappy with themselves, with others, and with reality itself.
e) That is what is at the heart of Critical Theory!
f) But this is the same man in Philippians 4 declared himself to be “content in any circumstance where I find myself.”
2. But Paul was not only dissatisfied before he became a Christian.
a) He was also marked by a healthy dissatisfaction after he became a Christian.
b) Any true Christian is a profound mixture of happy satisfaction and healthy dissatisfaction.
c) It is crucial that a Christian keep a wholesome balance of these two things in his life.
d) But we still must recognize that healthy dissatisfaction is a vital part of the Christian life.
e) The Christian has had a deeply satisfying drink of the Water of Life, but he is always thirsty for more!
f) He became an instant winner in Christ, but he then realized that there are a lot of other races to be won and fights to be fought since he got his first gold medal.
g) The Christian life involves a sanctified dissatisfaction as well as a settled contentment.
i) Because, though I am positionally perfect in Christ, I am still very imperfect in my daily practice as a Christian.
C. A Heart-felt Focus
1. Second, Paul was characterized by a heart-felt focus in his life.
a) “This one thing I do,” he said.
b) We would call this concentration or focus, and that is what Christian devotion is.
c) Focus and concentration are indispensable ingredients of every Christian’s daily life.
d) Paul was a specialist, and so should every Christian be.
e) His focus was not on a dozen things, or even two, but only on one.
f) His vocation was Christ and His Purpose; his avocation was anything else that called for his attention and effort.
2. There is great power in focusing on being intentional in letting others see Christ in you.
a) If each Christian would practice heart-felt devotion to Jesus Christ and His purpose to make disciples and impact the whole world, and join with a few others of similar devotion, the impact would be enormous!
b) Paul was the walking model of such whole-hearted (concentrated) devotion.
D. Look Toward Heaven
1. Paul lived a life of always looking toward heaven.
a) “Brethren, . . . I forget those things which are behind, and reach forth unto those things which are before” (verse 13).
b) Every runner on a track team is mindful of two foundational rules in running a race: (1) Don’t look back; and (2) Focus on the finish line.
2. Don’t look back! – “Forgetting the things which are behind.”
a) Christians are usually not as wise as runners on a track team.
b) They often stop to look back, and break their momentum toward the finish line.
c) I once saw a rear-view mirror on the side of a vehicle that enlarges the objects which it reflects.
d) Many Christians magnify their past like that!
3. Paul says that Christians should forget the things that are past.
a) One of my favorite Herb Hodges expressions is: “My memory is what I forget with!”
b) The Christian must deliberately use his memory to forget the past.
4. Paul followed his athletic metaphor still further when he said, “Strain forward toward those things that are before you.”
a) One can see the runner with every muscle straining toward the tape, his total focus on the finish line, and his full effort given to the race.
b) We cannot allow distractions to divert our attention from the running of the race.
5. Our life as Christians is never meant to be the casual or easygoing type of life that so many of us are looking for.
a) We cannot just sit back on padded seats in an air conditioned building and listen to the preacher!
b) We need to be faithful and determined to run this race and win this prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus!
c) It will be worth it all when you, too, are invited up to sit with Jesus beside the King’s throne.”
III. What Do You Do?
A. Be a Living Example
1. If you are really going to be a living example to someone, then you have to have a real relationship with them.
a) This being involved in people’s lives at a very deep level.
b) Even the apostle Paul who crisscrossed Asia Minor would say in Galatians 4:19 that “I have birth pangs until Christ is fully formed in you.”
c) Paul had come to such a personal knowledge of the people in Galatia that his own heart ached over their lack of spiritual growth.
2. These things define how much we should care for other people in our ministry.
a) In Acts 20 when Paul met with the Ephesian elders, Paul cares so deeply for them that he says “remembering night and day for a period of three years, I didn’t cease to admonish each one with tears”.
b) This is how much we should care for people for whom we are being an example of Christ.
c) It is people with whom you live and work and care about.
d) So Paul said to them, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”
3. How do we do this?
a) Read 1 Corinthians 4 and study it and use it for a guide for your life.
b) How do you effectively disciple someone into Christlikeness?
c) Be an example for them to imitate in every aspect of your life.
4. If you go back to Philippians 3:5-6
a) 5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.
b) That’s what’s behind this – it is God who will do it through you so that others can see Jesus in you!
c) We’re simply servants, nothing more than that.
d) God does the work.
B. The Goal – vv. 16-17
1. Now, this is the verse that I really love in this passage!
a) Verses 16 and 17 sets it all in concert.
b) 16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me. 17 That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.”
2. Now, you might say, “Wait a minute – wait a minute. If you’re so concerned about us, why don’t you come yourself?”
a) “What do you mean, send Timothy? Why don’t you just come yourself?
3. You know that you have truly discipled someone when in the most serious situation you can send your disciple and know that he will show them Christ in him just as they would see in you!
a) That’s what makes this passage live.
b) Paul has these massive concerns about this church and he can send a duplicate, Timothy.
c) That is the joy of ministry, to say “I can’t come, I can’t come. But I can send you someone who will bring you into remembrance of all my ways, which are in Christ.”
d) You see, that’s the point!
e) To so much like Christ that it is possible for others to see Christ in you and imitate you as you imitate Christ!