Dr. Doug Posey
A group of tourists visiting a picturesque village walked by an old man sitting beside a fence. In a rather patronizing way, one tourist asked, “Were any great men born in this village?” The old man replied, “Nope, only babies.” Like greatness, maturity is the result of a process in one’s life. Have you consciously entered into a process of growing up spiritually?
Raising a child from infancy involves recognizing the various stages of life and providing what is necessary to move him to the next stage. The baby sheds the bottle, the diaper, the “blankie,” the pacifier, and the baby carriage. She replaces these hallmarks of infancy with the appropriate tools for the toddler, and so on. Locking into one of these early stages and remaining there for life would be considered tragic.
Just as you can observe maturity in a growing person by what they do, as the book of James points out, what ultimately proves that our faith is authentic is what we do. That’s the bottom line. The next time you’re in church (while you should be listening to the sermon) take a quick glance around you, at all the people. Imagine what a difference this group of individuals might make if they all decided to truly live their faith this week. Look at what an impact twelve guys who decided to do that 2,000 years ago had! The scary part is that perhaps we all are living our faith. What does that say about our faith?!
Maturing involves imitating. Whether they admit it or not, everyone has a mentor of some kind. You can see it in the best and the worst of people. Someone before them was their example. But, mentoring and discipleship is an intentional part of growth for the Christian. From the beginning we bear Someone else’s image; the image of God. From there the image we bear is a matter of influence.
Even though we were created in the image of God we reflect countless unique personal qualities. Imitators of Christ have much in common too, but should also reflect uniqueness. However, just as it becomes obvious through observation which of God’s creatures is human, it should become obvious through observation which of the humans is Christian. Words and behavior are outward indicators of Who we are imitating. If someone chose to imitate you, would it follow that by doing so, they would be imitating Christ?
Paul felt confident enough about his example to conclude that for him, it would. He wrote to the Corinthians, “Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me” (1 Cor. 4:16). Paul was a father in the faith to the Corinthian church. I’ve heard plenty of dads say, “Don’t do as I do, do as I say!” But, Paul could exhort them to both, “Do as I say (the Scriptures—his letters) and as I do!” Wouldn’t you love to get to that place? It wasn’t easy for Paul.
Paul would have been the first to admit he was not perfect. None of us can be. Not while we live in these bodies of flesh and walk planet earth together. Losing your life to Christ involves denying oneself, following Him and submitting to the control of the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote about that in Galatians 2, where he said, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). So, Paul was really saying, “Imitate Jesus in me.”
It doesn’t happen overnight. It is not an event. It is a lifelong process. If commitment to Christ were supposed to be immediately complete, most would abandon the faith out of frustration. Paul likely would have. He recognized that he couldn’t be perfect and keep all God’s commands. His perfection could only be a reality to the degree that he allowed Christ to live in him. Christ only lived in those areas where Paul made room for Him by putting to death some deed of the flesh. A right relationship with God through Christ is not legalism, but letting Christ live in you one habit, deed and desire at a time. Which room of your life will Christ move into today?
“…and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” —GALATIANS 2:20