Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)
Paul of Tarsus was an interesting dude. We all know his testimony by now, Pharisee to faith and all that, but the guy was in love with Jesus; he wouldn’t stop, he was on fire! If Jesus ever had a son, I’m convinced it would’ve been Paul. From his travels all around the world, preaching the gospel and planting churches, to his tender love and care for the people he lead to Christ, even in his occasional strict discipline and authority as an apostle, Paul was a fantastic picture of a disciple of the Lord Jesus! Don’t get me wrong, he was just a regular person like us, but the Lord chose him to be a prime model of what a true Kingdom worker looks like, and he knew it.
While still remaining humble and giving all glory to Jesus, Paul was very aware that he was called to be an apostle, an eyewitness who was directly chosen by the Lord and sent out with His authority to represent Him. How could he forget? Jesus literally showed up right in front of Paul and blinded him! From that point on, the Holy Spirit transformed Paul’s life and turned him into a man who did everything he could to know Jesus, and be like Him. So with this in mind, Paul would often write to the churches he planted and urge them to remember his way of life when he was with them, and to imitate it, because he was a man who imitated Christ.
But that’s not all. Paul would also tell his other fellow co-workers, like Timothy and Titus, to lead by example. In order for them to teach others how to mature in their faith, they had to be exemplary models of it themselves, so they could offer themselves as a pattern or guide. Paul tells Timothy “Don’t let anyone discredit you for being young by being an example of a true disciple” (1 Tim. 4:12), and to Titus he says “In everything, present yourself as a pattern for good works.” (Titus 2:7) Peter tells the elders of the Church to not “lord your authority over the flock you care for, but be an example to them!” (1 Peter 5:3)
We have all been commissioned by our risen King Jesus to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20), whether that means leading someone to the Cross for the first time, or helping believers grow in spiritual maturity. But the truth is, we can’t preach what we aren’t practicing! Disciple-making is a process of self-replication, teaching others what the Lord has taught us. If that’s the case, we have to be walking and growing as disciples in the Spirit ourselves if we’re going to make disciples! As the hands and feet of Yeshua in this world, we have all been given the ministry of representing Him and being made like Him, so that we can reproduce that in others. Paul was able to confidently encourage other believers to imitate his faith because he was sure he was walking with Christ.
- Take a good, hard look at your life. Can you honestly say, even with your sin and stumbling, that you can serve as a leader and example in following the Lord Jesus? Are you willing to be the spearhead, and lead the way in showing people what a disciple looks like? If you’re like me, you might be hesitant to say yes. But that’s ok! Our weakness is His strength, so let’s pray for the Holy Spirit to work in us, and transform us into the image and likeness of Jesus!
For God knew his people in advance, and He chose them to become like His Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (Romans 8:29)