17 Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. 18 For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. 19 Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. 4:1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.
The road to your presence in any given church service, study, or ministry is paved with people who helped you get there (family, friends, teachers, guides, saints…). You’re involved because someone or something about someone influenced you, making a mark or lasting impression. There was something about them worth listening to, worth following, worth believing in.
Through other people, we learn what it means to be human; to do right and to do wrong. We watch and we listen. We’ve all heard, “Monkey see—monkey do,” and it’s true! And it is exactly why we must me be careful as to how we live our lives. The perception of faith and the ability to understand the way of the Christian is dependent upon what others see us do and hear us say.
Some people say, “Do as I say, not as I do,” when they are in a position of responsibility but were caught in the wrong. But for Christians, it is important that we unite our actions and our words, not just for the sake of our witness, but mainly for the success of our walk. This is where “imitation” comes into play and it is where Paul places so much emphases.
The trick to moving forward in your spiritual life depends upon the example that you follow. There are guides and saints that pave the way for us to live our lives in ways that make sense out of scripture when we struggle to understand them. Paul’s words to the Philippians are for them to look to him, as a teacher and follower of Christ, and imitate him so that they may know the way to a truly Christian life.
When our words and deeds line up, we have a genuine witness, an true example to follow. Passing on the way of Jesus Christ comes down to successfully living out what we are saying and what we are doing, letting God prove his presence and power to the world through us, His Church. Therefore, imitating the lives of faithful Christians and teachers is our way taking on a life of faith. Finding in our walk what it is that speaks the loudest to us, aiding us in getting the point.
Look at this short list of scriptures on “imitation”…
Phil 4.9, What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me-practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
1 Cor 11.1, Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
1 Tim 4.12, Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
1 Tim 4.15-16, Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Hebrews 13.7, Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
Scripture puts plenty of emphasis on watching the lives and developing our faith through emulating and imitating the trust and faith of those who have proven God’s power to us over the years. Think back to those who have influenced you, to those who inspired you, challenged you, who paved the way for you to know anything about God at all. Give thanks to God for their life.
But more than anything, give thanks for Jesus Christ, who came to be with us, to live like us, and to reflect the very character of God on earth so that we would know how it is that a citizen of heaven acts, behaves, speaks, and loves. This life is practice for later, therefore imitate the life of Jesus Christ—whether suffering or victory, join him and join those who imitate him in living a heavenly life here and now. Amen.