1 Corinthians 4:15-16
"For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me."
We were asked a number of questions, two of them being:
1. To whom are you a father/mother in Christ?
2. To whom are you a guardian in Christ?
First, to whom am I a mother in Christ? In studying the passage, we concluded that Paul became the father of the believers at Corinth through the Gospel because he was the first one who shared the Gospel with them. So, with whom have I first shared the Gospel and planted the seed of the Word (1 Corinthians 3:6)? Hmmm, good question. I can't think of anyone, actually.
Now, the point of reflecting on this is not to start a boasting competition. The church is not a factory that produces n number of converts each month. Instead, believers are called to glorify God. One way that we glorify Him is by sharing His Word with others so they might find life in Him, too (Matthew 28:18-20). God desires and intends to use believers as lights (Matthew 5:14-15) and as a living testimonies (1 Peter 2:9) to bring Himself glory. We cannot boast about ourselves with regards to what God does through us - for all that the believer has (life, breath, forgiveness, eternal life, blessings from God, etc) are gifts that have been received (1 Corinthians 4:7 and James 1:17). So, rather than offering me an invitation to boast and seek prideful gain (Matthew 6:2-4), I should be encouraged to share the Good News for God's sake and for His glory!
Second, to whom am I a guardian? We concluded from our study that the "guardians" that this passage refers to are those who teach other believers. So, to whom do I teach God's word and the things concerning God? Another...hmmm...not sure. I would like to teach and disciple others, but I am still a child in faith, myself!
Now, we get to the most surprising part of the passage - Paul says, no, urges: "imitate me"!
Wow, that seems a bit intense. I mean, shouldn't he be telling us to imitate Christ? Is Paul trying to say that he is perfect in everything? Does he not struggle with sin? Well, from Romans 7, it looks like Paul struggled with sin in a very real way. Well, how am I supposed to apply this? Should I try to imitate Paul? Or...should I live a life that says, "imitate me"?
Actually, God is calling us to live as examples before others. Of course, believers aren't perfect (Matthew 19:16-17). Of course, they sometimes sin and struggle with sin (Proverbs 20:9 and 1 John 1:8). But believers are forgiven and given new life so they will no longer present their members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but as instruments of righteousness to God (Romans 6:13). Christians living by the Word will bear fruits of righteousness (John 15:5). "...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23. By keeping my eyes on Jesus, God will enable me to live in a godly way. So I should not shrink away from Paul's eagerness to offer himself as an example - I should instead realize that God called me for just that and pray that God would mature me to be a more accurate reflection of Him.
Lord, I am in no way ideal or strong or wise - but You are! Lord, make me wise, humble, loving, and faithful. Give me a heart that seeks to serve You by serving others. Give me a heart that seeks to save, to support, to encourage, and to sacrifice. This heart that longs to know personalities of the past, individuals who are long since gone, and times that I will never walk in - Father, take this heart and direct it's care toward those around me. Fill me with love for the people you have brought into my life, just as you gave Paul a heart of love for the believers at Corinth. I want to walk in your ways, Lord, and exemplify your heart. Create in me a clean heart, O God (Psalm 51:10). Remove from me this heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh - put a new spirit in me, as you have promised (Ezekiel 36:26). You are able, more than able, to make me what you want me to be. Amen.
1 Corinthians 11
"Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ."
"I am the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy."
1 Peter 2:9
"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."
Praise God! He is good!