Tag Archives: christianity

Whose Example Do You Follow?

Setting the proper example has been at the forefront of my mind since 1998, the year when I was elected to be my Christian college fraternity’s “preacher,” and realized soon afterwards that I would have to start “practicing what I preach” if I was to be taken seriously.  As a minister, being a good example has always been a goal of mine, and even more so now that I am a father.  I do not always meet this goal I have set for myself; nonetheless, it is still a good goal to have and work towards, and I am still working on it.  It is a goal that God want all Christians to have.  Scripture tells us to imitate others who in turn imitate Christ (1 Cor. 11:1; cf. Phil. 3:17; Heb. 13:7).  Therefore, it would be good for us to consider  who our own role models are, who looks up to as an example of right or wrong, and most importantly, what kind of examples we set as Christians.

“For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” (John 13:15)

First and foremost, Jesus Christ should be whom we strive to imitate (1 Cor. 11:1).  He must be the example on how we strive to please one another (Rom. 15:1-3), love one another (Eph. 5:1-2), look out for one another (Phil. 2:4-5), and how to suffer patiently when mistreated (1 Pet. 2:20-23).  Our Lord said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40).  How much like Jesus are we?

The apostle Paul would be another role model to emulate (1 Cor. 4:6; 11:1).  He must be our example on how to avoid offending others (1 Cor. 9:19-23; 10:32) and how to serve others to their benefit rather than our own (1 Cor. 10:33).  Paul recognized that he had not obtained perfection, something we must always remember as well (Phil. 3:12); however, he also did his best to mature in the areas he needed to (Phil. 3:12-15), to never regress back into immaturity (Phil. 3:16), and to enjoy a close relationship with God (Phil. 4:9).  We should follow his example in these ways, as well as in choosing to receive God’s Word even in the midst of hardship as he did (1 Thess. 1:6) and avoiding being a burden to others (2 Thess. 3:7-10).

Paul also told us, “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you” (Phil. 3:17).  The writer of Hebrews likewise exhorted Christians to imitate the faith and patience of their fellow inheritors of God’s promises (Heb. 6:12), and to follow the faith of our leaders (Heb. 13:7).  Many Christians today provide examples worth of emulation; whose example are you following?

Even more importantly, whose example are you?  I think we forget sometimes that the people sitting around us in the pews on Sunday follow our example, for better or worse.  This is why God wants us to mindful of the example we set for others (1 Thess. 1:7; 1 Tim. 4:12; Tit. 2:7).  Others, such as children (Matt. 18:6) and unbelievers (1 Pet. 2:12), are watching us, easily influenced by what they see in us, carefully observing us to see if we “walk the walk.”  Oftentimes, the unchurched decide just how worth their time it is to follow Christ by looking at what kind of example is set by those who profess to follow him.  Christians need to remember that.

What kind of example are you?  Is it indicative of a faithful Christian?  Do you show the world what it means to be an obedient follower of God?  Do you show spiritual infants what maturity means?  Is your example helping others to become a disciple of Christ…or discouraging them?  Is your example helping the church grow?  How often do you show up when the doors are open?  How interested are you in developing skills needed to help the church grow, and how interested are you in using your talents to serve God’s kingdom?  Is your example helping or hindering the progress of the church?  If every churchgoer was exactly like you, would the church be strong and growing?  Would it even exist?

None of us are perfect, and all of us have room to grow.  We should not be discouraged by our shortcomings, nor should we harshly and hypocritically judge each other without patience and love when we see faults in others.  Instead, let the questions asked above challenge us all to take Christianity more seriously and, with God’s help and grace, become an example worth following and help others to do the same.

How’s Our Prayer Life?

It is my sincere hope that all of us pray to our Father in heaven, and pray often.  The Bible says to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17), and we should remember that this verse is a command from God that he expects us to obey.  Prayer is not an optional thing if we want to be saved; since Christ is “the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Heb. 5:9), we must obey the commands to pray often if we want to see Heaven.

We should also want the Lord to be pleased with our prayers and to answer them.  Have we ever stopped to consider what exactly it is that we pray for?  Have we ever thought about for whose benefit it is that we are praying for?  We should.  Consider the example of Solomon’s prayer and God’s response to it (1 Kings 3:5-14).  He did not ask that God give him a long life, or a lot of money.  He did not ask that God do something bad to his enemies.  Instead, he asked for wisdom and understanding to make the right judgment calls in life.  God was so impressed with this that he not only gave Solomon wisdom, but also granted to him all the things that he didn’t ask for.

We can pray to our heavenly Father about our jobs, our health, our school work, and our finances.  We have the example of a man God called honorable who prayed for these types of things (1 Chr. 4:9-10).  These aren’t bad things to pray about, and praying about such things is certainly better than not praying at all.  However, how many of these things will be with us a century from now?  None!

Let’s remember to pray also for the spiritual, the things that we can keep forever such as love, mercy, humility, understanding, meekness, patience, and honesty.  These are qualities of the heart that truly matter to God and will truly help us reach heaven.  They, rather than our successes in this world, are what matter in the long run.  Remember also that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35), so we should pray for the spiritual and physical well-being of others more than for ourselves.
We should all want to get to heaven as our top priority, so let’s make sure we are aiming at the right target by asking for the best things to help us and everyone else get there.  Let’s seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness before all other things, and He will provide the rest (Matt. 6:33).

Joy In The Midst Of Grief

This past Sunday afternoon, I received a call that no minister wants to receive.  A dear sister in Christ had just passed away after suffering from a grievous illness for many months, and her family was grieving at the house.  Would I please come and be with them?  Two months ago, I sat every day at the hospital with another family from the church who was watching their husband, father, and brother lose his battle with cancer, and I went to their house on another Sunday when I received the call that he had left this life.  Sitting with folks who have lost their mate, their closest companion, the parent who brought them into this world and nurtured and loved them all their lives, the grandparent who had spoiled them as children and had given them advice, privileges, and goodies that they would never get from Mom and Dad, and holding their hands while they mourn and listening to them grieve and weep…it’s hard.  It’s at these times that I feel the most helpless and inadequate.

I’m sure you know what I mean.  Many of you have been there, and will be again.  I’ve found that it’s best to simply be there, to provide that hand to hold, that shoulder to cry on, that listening ear.  Job’s friends sat with him during his darkest hour for an entire week, and none of them said a word during that entire time (Job 2:11-13).  In fact, it turned out that the most comfort they gave to Job was when they were silent; once they started talking, they just added to his pain and sorrow!  (Job 4-37)  What a great lesson for us!

Yet, in the midst of all this sorrow, pain, loss and feelings of helplessness, I cannot help but feel joy and happiness for my brothers and sisters in Christ who have left this life.  The apostle John wrote, “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this:  Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’  ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!’” (Rev. 14:13)  Those who die in the Lord are at peace now.  They are receiving comfort alongside Lazarus, Abraham, and the thief in Paradise (Luke 16:23-25; 23:39-43).  When Christ comes again, they will receive a new, imperishable body (1 Cor. 15:50-55) and rise again to meet him in the air (1 Thess. 4:13-18).  When we all stand before God’s judgment seat, Death and Hades will have given them up (Rev. 20:11-13).  They will hear from the lips of their Savior and Lord, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34), and they will be ushered into eternal life (Matt. 25:46).

In this life, they suffered…but their suffering was preparing them for eternal glory in heaven (1 Cor. 4:16-5:5), a place they will be with an innumerable host of their fellow saints, a place where there is no more pain, sorrow, hunger, thirst, or weeping, a place where they will be with God and the Lamb (Rev. 7:9-17; 21:1-4).  They will be in this wonderful place for all eternity not because they earned it or deserved it (Eph. 2:8-9).  No, they were sinners just like all of us (Rom. 3:23).  Heaven will be theirs because of God’s grace and mercy (Tit. 2:11-14; 3:3-7) which prompted him to send his Son to die for us (Rom. 5:6-11; 1 John 2:1-2).  Heaven will be theirs because they chose to obey God (Heb. 5:9; Matt. 7:21-23).  Heaven will be theirs because of their faith in Jesus (John 3:16), a faith which prompted them to obey him (James 2:14-26).  Heaven will be theirs because Jesus told them to repent of their sins, and they believed and obeyed him (Luke 13:3; 2 Cor. 7:9-10).  Heaven will be theirs because Jesus told them to wash their sins away by being baptized into him, and they believed and obeyed him (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Gal. 3:26-27; Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:11-13; Mark 16:16; 1 Pet. 3:21).  Heaven will be theirs because when they were penitently baptized, the Lord added them to his body, the church of which he is the Savior (Acts 2:41, 47; 1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:22-23; 4:4-5; 5:23).  Heaven will be theirs because they walked in the light of God by confessing their sins and striving to put Christ first in all things through their obedience of his commands (1 John 1:7-9; Matt. 6:33; 28:18-20).

And Heaven can be ours as well.  God offers us the same salvation he offered them.  He gives us the same plan, the same grace, the same mercy, the same sacrifice, the same commandments.  When we pass on, our loved ones can also find joy in the midst of their grief (1 Thess. 4:13-18), because we were in the Lord when we left this life (Rev. 14:13).

Are we in the Lord?  God’s Word tells us how to be in him.  Are we doing what he has told us to do?  Are we prepared for eternity?