Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. – Philippians 1:18-26
The Apostle Paul shares with us a wonderfully transparent look at his heart. I guess that most of us would find it difficult to write these words, assuming that we could. Some of it sounds sort of arrogant, but it is really just honest and transparent. “I don’t expect to be ashamed by my conduct.” “Now as always, Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or death.” “If I live, it is good for you.” If I wrote those phrases on this blog, I can’t help but think they would seem to be braggadocious and probably false. How could I be so “holy” as to expect that I will not have any shame at the appearing of the Lord Jesus? Or, as always, Christ will be honored in my body, I never fail. These are amazing words. I am sure some would accuse me of thinking I am some kind of super-Christian. The truth is, I don’t think I could write these words in all honesty about myself. I am sure there are reasons in my life that I would feel shame at the appearing of the Lord…except that I know my only plea is the finished work of Christ and not my own works.
The Apostle Paul had an amazing perspective on life. He also had a unique experience with Christ that obviously affected his entire life. Maybe if I had his experience, it would be easier to write the kinds of things Paul wrote to the Philippians. But, what did Paul expect of we who follow his teaching in his many letters?
I urge you, then, be imitators of me – 1 Corinthians 4:16
Later in this letter he says.
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. – Philippians 3:17
What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. – Philippians 4:9
You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. – 1 Thessalonians 1:5-7
For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us – 2 Thessalonians 3:7
I love sound Biblical teaching. I feast on it. The poor use of Scripture by some preachers is like fingernails on a blackboard to my spirit. I feel for the many Christians who are subject to Pastors who are not good craftsmen and rightly dividing the truth of God’s word. Their souls are left wanting to some extent. But there is a danger for those of us who are privileged, as I am, to belong to a church that is highly esteemed for its Biblical, doctrinally sound, Christ-centered preaching of the gospel from all of Scripture. We can become haughty in our doctrinal precision, and I know that is a stench in the nostrils of God.
Paul not only held forth with the revelation of the gospel of Jesus Christ as given to him directly by Jesus, but he also lived an exemplary life. It was because of the quality of Paul’s life in Christ that he could urge us to be imitators of him. The truth is, most of the Christian life is more caught than taught. We are all called to be disciple-makers. We are not all MDiv or Ph.D. theologians, but we are all called to make disciples. I gather from that that theological precision is not the most important thing in making disciples. Being an example in our walk with Christ is essential.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” – Luke 24:46-49
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” – Acts 1:6-8
Some of us think we can’t make disciples because we don’t have a deep theological understanding to preach the gospel. I say again, that was never a prerequisite for Jesus so why should it be for you and me? He said to be filled with the Holy Spirit and be a witness. We can all do that. Just live a life that shows what it is to walk with Jesus and then tell them about it. Keep Jesus in the middle of your life, and he will draw folks to himself. Then, you just tell them to follow you as you follow Christ, warts and all!