The Power of Imitation

God's Message on the Web - My earliest podcasts.

We live in a world that loves to imitate. People seek to be fashionable in the way they dress. Fashion in dress encourages imitation. If you think you are immune to the imitation of the fashion of dress, consider how quickly you adapt your clothing to the area you live in. Accepted behavior commonly influences our behavior. We do things in the “right” way because that is the way everyone else does. With many, it is a tragedy if we do not do something the “right” way as “the in thing to do.” Do you not find it fascinating to hear people discuss what is acceptable now and what is not acceptable now?

All of us would likely be surprised at how much imitation we would find in our dress, our speech, our behavior, our cars, our homes, and our lives in general. Imitation is even at the roots of our war. People who embrace Muslim lifestyle and values do not want their society imitating the lifestyle and values of western societies (that includes us!). And we are fearful of the influences of the lifestyles and values of “those societies.” Why? Many say they do not want those influences in our “Christian” nation.

We are a “Christian nation”? This nation reflects a “Christian” lifestyle and “Christian” values? Really? Do you think average Americans would even agree on what a Christian lifestyle and Christian values are? How often do Americans associate the Christian lifestyle and values with the dress codes and behaviors of particular groups who declare themselves Christian?

Imitation is not a bad thing of itself. In fact, imitation is impossible to avoid, and has been since societies existed. Imitation plays a key role in influence. Consider a statement from Paul.

“Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)

  1. I want you to begin by thinking about what an enormous challenge it was in the first century to make Jesus Christ a world influence.
    1. We usually focus on all the things they did not have in their societies to aid mass communication–no printing press, no radio, no television, no modern advertising agencies, and no modern “spin doctors” to tell people what to think as if people cannot think.
    2. I challenge you to think of the enormity of the task from a different perspective.
      1. The small Jewish nation into which Jesus was born had Jewish ways to do everything.
        1. They had Jewish traditions for marriage.
        2. They had Jewish traditions for death.
        3. They had Jewish traditions for keeping the Sabbath.
        4. There was a “right Jewish way” to do everything a devout Jew did.
      2. The vast majority of people were idol worshippers.
        1. Most of the time, we stereotype idol worshippers; the truth is there were many forms of idolatry, and many of those forms had distinct differences.
        2. Each of those forms had “correct” ways to do everything.
      3. The key question: how do you make Jesus Christ influential throughout the world, among all people whether Jewish or idolatrous?
        1. How do you make Jesus Christ influential in your own society?
        2. How do you make Jesus Christ influential trans-culturally?
        3. That was an enormous challenge in the first century!
      4. Initially, the world was big and the Christian movement was tiny (sound familiar?).
  2. I want to affirm one truth: Christianity is about Jesus Christ, about the impact of Jesus Christ on human life.
    1. The central figure in each of the gospels, the first four writings of the New Testament, is Jesus Christ.
      1. They affirm Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) God promised.
      2. They declare he did the works of God.
      3. They affirm he declared God’s focus on human behavior in his teachings.
      4. They affirm he died for us.
      5. They affirm God resurrected him from the dead.
      6. Without Jesus, there is no “good news” (the meaning of the word gospel).
    2. Acts affirms Jesus is Lord and Christ.
      “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36)

      1. It affirms the impact of Jesus Christ on Jewish people.
      2. It affirms the impact of Jesus Christ on Gentiles.
      3. It affirms the impact of Jesus Christ on the arrested Paul.
    3. The epistles affirm how belonging to Jesus Christ affects how people who have accepted Jesus Christ live, how Jesus Christ affect the concerns of the individual, and how Jesus Christ affects those who present him to others.
    4. The collective point of the New Testament is that Jesus Christ changes the way people who live for God live and act.
  3. Please focus your attention on Ephesians 4:17 through 5:2. Please read with me.
    Ephesians 4:17-5:2, “So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”
    (Please keep this text in front of you.)

    1. I want you to see for yourself in this text that there is:
      1. Life lived before Christ.
      2. An understanding of what it means to be in Christ.
      3. Contrasts between life before Christ and life in Christ.
      4. And a call to imitation.
    2. This book was written to Gentiles who became Christians (look at chapter two).
      1. The book stressed the impact of Jesus Christ on people who formerly lived godless lives.
        • Ephesians 1:1,2  Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
        • Ephesians 1:3  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ
        • Ephesians 1:15,16  For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers
        • Ephesians 2:4,5  But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)
        • Ephesians 3:4  By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ
        • Ephesians 3:14-19  For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
        • Ephesians 4:14-16  As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
      2. Note the continued emphasis on Jesus Christ.
    3. Now look carefully at the text we read in the beginning, which began in 4:17.
      1. Verses 4:17 through 4:19 obviously deal with the lives these people lived prior to their knowledge of Jesus Christ.
      2. Verses 4:20 through 4:22 declare plainly that the message from Jesus Christ did not teach them to keep on living as they lived before coming to Christ.
      3. Verses 4:23 through 4:24 declare the responding to the message about Christ is to result in a transformation of life
        1. There was the former life and there is the new life.
        2. There is a “what you used to live for” given in contrast to “what you now live for” as Christians.
      4. Then there are at least six contrast between a life lived that does not know Christ and a life that has been given to Christ in verses 4:25-32.
      5. Then there is the challenge to let Christ teach them how to imitate God in the way they live in verses 5:1, 2.
  4. The point I want you to see should jump out at you: Christian existence is about living for Jesus Christ.
    1. I am going to say some things that could be easily misunderstand. I say them because:
      1. I want you to think.
      2. I want your faith to develop deeper roots to support a deeper understanding of God’s work.
      3. (If you do not understand, ask me about what you do not understand.)
    2. Ultimately, you are not a Christian because of the faith of anyone else–your grandparents, your parents, you favorite preacher, your favorite Bible teacher, your favorite example in the congregation.
      1. Spiritual maturity is believing because of your conviction, not because of someone else’s conviction.
      2. You belong to Jesus Christ, not to a person you know or to a group you know.
      3. Why is this understanding so important?
        1. A person is not perfect–all of us (even the best of us) are capable of making some very ungodly mistakes.
        2. Congregations are composed of people–all of them are capable of making some very ungodly mistakes.
        3. When people fail, you will loose faith if your faith is rooted in people.
      4. We live in an evil world.
        1. While we always wish to be the yeast of God’s influence, bad things will still happen to godly people.
        2. When good people suffer, you wish to praise God through Christ for His blessings which you see, not denounce God and Christ because things are not happening like you would like for them to happen.
    3. Understanding we belong to Jesus Christ could even change your concept of evangelism.
      1. Conversion is not a matter of changing a few facts.
      2. Conversion is not a matter of becoming a part of a religious organization.
      3. Conversion is about accepting a Savior, placing confidence in a Savior, and following a Savior as his disciple.
      4. People need to see how that belonging to Jesus Christ affects who we are and how we live–that is the “light” we reflect that urges them to turn to the Savior we turned to.
      5. We want them to seek the Savior, not follow a religious system.

Is godly influence bad? No! Is godly imitation bad? No! But both are stepping stones that should lead to spiritual maturity expressed in Christ-like lifestyles. Godly influence and godly imitation lead to placing confidence in Jesus Christ. The root system that sustains faith in immoral floods and ungodly droughts is sunk deep in Jesus Christ. He sustains, and he leads to God.

David Chadwell

Author: Greg

Welcome to Gods Message on the web. My name is Greg and I want to welcome you. I started doing these Podcasts, MP3, and Audio Books back in 2007. Stay awhile and make yourself at home. The Christian Podcasts here are free and for everyone to enjoy. I’m doing a complete series on David Chadwell who is a retired minister from Fort Smith, Arkansas. I’ve also done an Audio Book for Wayne Jacobsen’s the Naked Church. Plus a series of MP3s for Pastor Billy Crone and his The Final Countdown series.

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