Imitators of Christ

1 Corinthians 11:1.

Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.

Seeing Jesus is what Christianity is all about. Christian service in its purest form is imitating Him Whom we see. To see His majesty and to imitate Him – this is the sum of Christianity. Getting a vision of your Maker can be like starting a whole new life. It can be like a new birth. In fact, Jesus Himself said: “Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3 3).

Man was not meant to live ignorant of his maker. That is why God came near – so that man may see Him. Yet, man was reluctant to acknowledge his Maker; he still is. The reason is spiritual blindness caused by the deceiver – Satan. He has deceived man into thinking that he has evolved, not created. That he is still evolving into superior beings and he can be self-sufficient apart from God. This is a lie. Man, apart from God is in darkness (Romans 1:21). God knows it. That is why in Jesus Christ, He came to man as the Light of the world to enlighten him, to make him aware of his need of God, aware of a higher, better, abundant, everlasting life (John 8:12).

The higher and better life that man is called to is possible only when he discovers his weakness and impotency in the flesh, life apart from God, and desires to be born anew in the spirit of his being. In order for him to be saved from himself (carnal life), God’s plan for man’s salvation was put in place before time began. In the Person and work of Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God and of man, man is saved and by being dressed with Him he becomes a new, spiritual being, a child of God Himself. He discards the ‘self’ [carnal life] and clothes himself with Christ [spiritual life]. His nature undergoes a metamorphosis. Just as an ugly caterpillar emerges from the apparently dead cocoon, changed into a beautiful butterfly, so also carnal man emerges from the watery grave of baptism a metamorphosed beautiful creature after the nature of Jesus Himself! The change is effected by God Himself, through His Spirit [contained in the word]. This change is not physically apparent; but the transformation occurs in the real person i.e. the mind of the soul. The transformed man now desires his Creator only and how he might please his Maker. Little by little, over a period of time, the nature of the carnal man is replaced by the nature of God as revealed in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Such a new creature has little patience with or interest in the works of the flesh or ‘highs’ of this world. His only goal now is to patiently wait on His God in absolute surrender and marvel at the countless blessings that he now enjoys in continuous fellowship with and from his Creator.

In Ephesians 5:1-5, the apostle Paul says, “Therefore, be imitators of God as dearly loved children and live in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God. But among you there must not be either sexual immorality, impurity of any kind, or greed, as these are not fitting for the saints. Neither should there be vulgar speech, foolish talk, or coarse jesting--all of which are out of character--but rather thanksgiving. For you can be confident of this one thing: that no person who is immoral, impure, or greedy (such a person is an idolater) has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”

What a contrast is presented in the above passage between the godly and ungodly lives! The first refers to love and sacrifice for others; the second refers to the carnal life lived for the gratification of fleshly desires. To the spiritual man, the carnal life is immoral and impure and he can no longer be attracted to it having found the higher, better life in his Lord Jesus. He lives to please his God and always thanks Him for His love, mercy, grace, and providential care.

The example of the Christians at Thessalonica is a case of being imitators of God. After their conversion to the Lord Jesus Christ brought about by the apostles’ teachings, Paul says that they “became imitators of us and of the Lord, when you received the message with joy that comes from the Holy Spirit, despite great affliction. As a result you became examples to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For from you the message of the Lord has echoed forth not just in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place reports of your faith in God have spread, so that we do not need to say anything. For people everywhere report how you welcomed us and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus our deliverer from the coming wrath” (1 Thessa.1:6-10).

The imitator of God [and of Christ], does not seek to please people but God, who examines his heart. He does not seek glory from people. He lives his life according to God’s will. He now becomes like a little child – innocently trusting, loving, and pleasing God. He is now without guile. He also becomes like a nursing mother caring for her own children. He is now willing to share not only the gospel of God with all but also his life.

He is now holy and righteous and blameless in his conduct and he lives in a way that is worthy of God who called him to his own kingdom and his glory (see 1 Thess.2).

Once the Christian has received the elementary instructions about Christ, he is instructed to move on to maturity (Hebrews 6:1-3), and imitate those who through faith and perseverance inherit the promises (Hebrews 6:12).

A word of caution for those who fall away. It is impossible for him who has once been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, become partakers of the Holy Spirit, tasted the good word of God and the miracles of the coming age, and then have fallen away, to be renewed again to repentance, since he is crucifying the Son of God for himself all over again and holding him up to ridicule. He is reserved to be burned. (Hebrews 6:4-8).

Paul the apostle, after saying that he had more reason to boast of his achievements in the flesh and listing out his credentials, says that he counted his human achievements as “loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but rubbish, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness … but that which is through faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith; that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection” (see Philippians 3:8-11).

The imitator of God is not content to rest in a limited knowledge of his Maker; he yearns to know Him better because he knows his own lack and knows that only God can satisfy him. Once he has received the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, he cannot rest until his humble body is transformed into the likeness of his Master’s glorious body! (read Philippians 3 for details).

Sadly, there are many who claim to be imitators of God but are really enemies of the cross of Christ because their god is the belly, they are not ashamed of the shameful things they do, and they always think about earthly things; their end is destruction (Phil.3:18, 19). The imitator of Christ knows he does not belong to the earth; he belongs to heaven where his Lord is and his longing expectation is to be with his Lord forever! (v. 20). The man who has truly seen Jesus will never be the same again. His pride will be laid at Jesus’ feet and in humility and total surrender he will imitate his Master always.

God is eternal and unchangeable love. In His sovereignty, He decided to treat man in grace. His love motivates His grace. Righteousness and Justice stood in the way because of the sin barrier between man and God. In Love, God the Father sent His Son to the cross to die for the sins of the whole world. Righteousness and Justice are thus satisfied, the barrier is removed, and love and grace can be given to man.