You Should Follow My Example
I often write about our identity as New Creations in Christ. It seems that the church is at a place where because of the strong emphasis on “Identity,” many no longer identify themselves with movements or leaders.
This is often from a reactionary stance of saying, “I am not a _________ (Charismatic, Baptist, Christian, etc, fill in the blank), I am a follower of Jesus.”
Another similar syndrome is when a leader is quoted, (i.e. Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, John Wesley, or a modern day leader, etc) that the response is, “Well the Holy Spirit is my teacher, not so and so.”
I understand how the Grace and Freedom, which comes from understanding your identity, causes a season of kickback. Some people have been so mishandled and controlled by religion for so long that freedom brings with it a season of adjustment.
The Apostle Paul also wrote about not finding your identity from which banner you place yourself under: “My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” -1 Corinthians 1:11-13
Identity comes not from which label you choose to identify with. Your new identity comes from being a New Creation, that is an internal work, not an external label.
Yet, I believe that the reaction against having leaders that we admire and look up to has in many cases gone way too far!
It is important to balance out this discussion with what Paul writes only a few chapters later: “I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.” - 1 Corinthians 4:14-17
Then again Paul writes: “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” - 1 Corinthians 11:1
Imitation seems to run very contrary to standing firm in one’s identity, but it isn’t contrary at all.
I have many leaders that I choose to imitate. They have particular strengths that I love, honor and respect.
Yes, my identity is unique as a New Creation in Christ, yet also I value the strength I see in others and by honoring and imitating, I can add those strengths to my life.
If we don’t get this “imitating” thing right, then we can easily spend our life reacting and not benefiting from the greatness of other leaders.
Personally, here is my short list of how I utilize “imitate me.”
- My prophetic gifting has been influenced by Dennis Cramer
- My Theological perspective is influenced by Harold Eberle
- My value for impartation is influenced by Randy Clark
- My desire to build something big enough to change the world is impacted by Bill Johnson and Joseph Prince
- My perspective on time management and health is influenced by Timothy Ferriss
- My humor is influenced by Kris Vallotton
- My articulation is influenced by Malcolm Gladwell
(I suppose I could continue, but I will stop here)
Basically stated, our identity is secure in Christ. I am simply advocating for opening your heart to receive from mentors, even ones that you may never meet.
I have added to my WWJD. What would Harold Eberle think about this? What humorous thing would Kris Vallotton say about this? How would Malcolm Gladwell say this? And so forth.
Everything you have just read, was written for a blog about a year ago. Having recently read through the New Testament, I came across so many other places that the early Christians were directed to: “Follow my example” “imitate me” and to be “a model based on my model.” It is with these in mind that I decided to include the following list of verses for your consideration.
“Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.” - Philippians 3:17
“You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.” - 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7
“For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews.” - 1 Thessalonians 2:14
“In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example…. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate.” - 2 Thessalonians 3: 6-7, 9
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” - 1 Timothy 4:12
“In everything set them an example by doing what is good.” - Titus 2:7a
“We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.” - Hebrews 6:12
“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” - Hebrews 13:7
“...not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” - 1 Peter 5:3
“Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.” - 3 John 1:11
Seeing all these verses while reading the New Testament, I came to a realization. The Apostle Paul didn’t expect people to each have a personal copy of his letters, which they would then memorize and quote to each other (which is what we do with the New Testament). Rather, Paul seemed to expect that people would read his life as the model. He himself was a letter, a model, and an example, someone worthy of imitating.