I CORINTHIANS 4:15-16: “You may have countless Christian guardians, but you don’t have many ⌊spiritual⌋ fathers. I became your father in the Christian life by telling you the Good News about Christ Jesus. So I encourage you to imitate me.” (GW)
OBSERVATION: What does a true disciple of Jesus Christ look like? If someone asked you this question, would you answer it by saying – “Look at me.”? This is exactly what Paul said to the Corinthians in his first letter to them. It is both a bold and very humbling statement. One that we must understand before we dare say the same to someone else.
The Corinthians were caught up in the outward trappings of appearance and popularity. This is not much different than so many Christians and churches today. In the opening chapter Paul writes,
- “Brothers and sisters, some people from Chloe’s family have made it clear to me that you are quarreling among yourselves. This is what I mean: Each of you is saying, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in Paul’s name?” (1 Corinthians 1:11-13 GW)
Does that sound familiar. Many today are clamoring to follow the latest and greatest preachers, to attend to biggest and most exciting churches. Churches seem to be in competition with each other as to who can put on the most exciting Sunday morning worship experience. Worship has become a mini-concert each Sunday morning, and seminars are given to pastors to teach them how to insert the “Wow” factor into their worship experience. All of this is lifting up personalities, styles, and copying an entertainment style learned from the world. It is the same pitfall and trap that the Corinthians fell into, and that Paul was addressing in his letter.
Paul reminded them that it was he who introduced them to Jesus Christ. And he reminded them that the only one that we should be emulating and gathering around was Jesus Christ! So why did he say – “So I encourage you to imitate me.” Wasn’t this a total contradiction of everything he had just exhorted them to do?
The answer to this question is to look closely at the example he asked them to imitate. Paul wrote these words before his challenge to the Corinthians.
- “You already have what you want! You’ve already become rich! You’ve become kings without us! I wish you really were kings so that we could be kings with you. As I see it, God has placed us apostles last in line, like people condemned to die. We have become a spectacle for people and angels to look at. We have given up our wisdom for Christ, but you have insight because of Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are honored, but we are dishonored. To this moment, we are hungry, thirsty, poorly dressed, roughly treated, and homeless. We wear ourselves out doing physical labor. When people verbally abuse us, we bless them. When people persecute us, we endure it. When our reputations are attacked, we remain courteous. Right now we have become garbage in the eyes of the world and trash in the sight of all people.” (1 Corinthians 4:8-13 GW)
This does not sound like the testimony of a “Great Apostle”. This does not sound like the testimony of one of today’s famous preachers. This sounds like the testimony of a poor slave. And thus you have it! Paul was calling them to imitate his complete surrender to Jesus Christ and his complete sacrifice for others. Paul was willing to lay down everything for the Corinthians believers so that they gain everything! When you think about it…that sounds a lot like someone else!
- “Have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Although he was in the form of God and equal with God, he did not take advantage of this equality. Instead, he emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant, by becoming like other humans, by having a human appearance. He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8 GW)
When we hear the call to radical New Testament Christianity we are hearing the call to become a servant of Jesus Christ for the benefit of others.
Imagine what could happen if we all did this?
Now this is really something to imitate!
In Jesus Name!