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WANTED: Imitators of Christ
Ephesians 5:1 commands us to be imitators of Christ. Jesus himself said many times that he came as an example, and the New Testament uses the phrase “follow me”, “follow him” or “followers of Christ” more than 30 times. The word “followers” comes from the Greek word “mimos” which means “to imitate”. From the word “mimos” we can easily see where the English words “mime” and “mimic” come from.
The Scriptures are full of examples of how and what a person should do to become an imitator of Christ. Love your enemies. Forgive those who have sinned against you. Heal the sick. Cast out the demons. Free the captives. Make disciples. Go to the imprisoned and the weak and feed the hungry. Things like that, right?
So how is it all going?
Is someone actively training you to develop these gifts?
With very few exceptions, the institutional church as we know it is failing in every way. Truth be told, most churches are just pulpits where they are deficient in challenging Christ’s standards and teachings. Church divisions are commonplace. Ministers anonymously admit that they have major personal problems, from porn and alcohol addictions to sad loneliness and depression. Research shows that distrust and disbelief are high among high-level believers.
The power of all things must be tested for the worthiness of the Kingdom. How does the American Church respond to these challenges? Every year, about 3,800 people eventually close their doors after failing. NOTE: Since congregations are made up of thousands of people, the FRUITS of the PEOPLE attending these gatherings must remain the ultimate litmus test. Is life changing? Are they doing what Jesus said they should do? Where is the fruit? Where are the imitators?
Who has time to make disciples when the typical minister or priest is leading the spiritual corporation we call “the church” and the members are busy with every distraction under the sun, including building maintenance?
I once taught a class on Spiritual Warfare to about 40 college students at a coffee bar. At one point, a lovely young lady sitting on the front sofa raised her hand and asked, “When was my pastor going to teach me this?” I asked him to ask his pastor this question. When it comes to disciples, we too often make people in our own image; Rather than being imitators of Jesus, they are taught how to “be one of us.” New converts are often given a Bible (if that much), told what to say and when to say it (Christianity), taught the song, and put in an unbiblical, even demonic class where they can at least learn something. , human-made rules and regulations will help to “tune” them. When they do, the congregation will give such converts their stamp of approval and move on to someone else who will receive a little more training than before.
Personally, I want every new believer to spend three years exclusively studying nothing but the words of Jesus. Nothing from Paul, James, or Peter. Just Jesus. No contact with other church people. I might throw them in a release session or two just for good measure. According to Jesus, the Word of God is not to be influenced by doctrines, dogmas or traditions that make it of no effect.
Our tendency is to “parrot” what we hear and see in the life of the church. This is called “system management”.
And it’s failing. The Western Church has very little influence on society.
I recently heard sociologist and researcher George Barna read an excerpt from his book Evolution on CD. He says the two fastest-growing forms of what he calls “mini churches” are house churches, online ministries, or “cyber churches.” Just this afternoon, a woman told me very honestly that people who participate in anything other than traditional activities get nothing out of the church and are “broken.” The poor fellow is leaving organized Christianity as we know it in such large numbers that he failed to consider that the problem might be with the organization and not with the masses. In the past couple of days, after they found out I became a minister, I heard, without any confusion, from an old, gray-bearded carpenter and a college-age waiter about how hypocritical and spiritually ignorant they are, professing to be Christians. Less repetition of Sunday morning worship. Another, a young mother with a drug addiction who had just been released from prison after six months, told me that she wanted spiritual training but was not accepted by the church.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. Week in and week out Westerners play in church while Christianity thrives in Third World countries and places where worshipers are persecuted.
What we are doing is simply failing. If we could save our nation with all our churches, television, radio, music, and yes, e-mail broadcasts, we would have more influence than we do now. Lord, send us revivalists from China or Sudan!
HAVE YOU BEEN WITH JESUS?
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, they marveled that they were ignorant and foolish men, and knew that they were with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13). The Scribes and Pharisees were wise men. When they heard the apostles speak with boldness and conviction, they soon learned the reason for their boldness. Peter and John had no education other than fishing and seamanship, so they knew that this was not the result of their great education and charm. No, their courage did not come from the independence of knowledge, but from the Spirit of the living God. Law teachers knew this.
Charles Spurgeon wrote: “A Christian should be a wonderful likeness to Jesus Christ. You have admired the talent of those who wrote the life of Christ beautifully and eloquently, who could read and write very well; but the best life of Christ is His living biography, the words of His people, written in action. If, my brethren, if we were as we say we are; if the Spirit of the Lord were in the hearts of all his children as we would; and if, instead of formal professors abounding, we were all possessors of that vital grace, so that we will tell you not only what we ought to be, but what we ought to be: we ought to be the image of Christ, yea, the very likeness of him. The world embraces us every hour and says, “Well, it seems like something.” needless to say; but they saw us once, and said, “He was with Jesus; he taught from him; he is like him; he gets the idea of the holy man of Nazareth, and he extends it to his own life and daily actions…”
So WHERE should we be imitators of Christ? In the workplace. At home. In the school building. In the locker room, in the restaurant, everywhere. Live the life of Christ and show off your love relationship with God! Why not? We’ll buy a car or start a new love affair, we won’t shut up about it! Jesus said, “When they saw Me, they saw the Father,” so if we imitate the Father, we can say, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” It’s easy to “act like Christ” in church service, but how many of us are like Diotrephes, seeking authority in the congregation, forgetting that ALL are equal, love one another, and strive to serve others?
Unleash the Spirit of Christ in your fellowship. But most of all, stay at home with your spouse, your children, and everyone who enters. Even on phone and computer. British evangelist Rowland Hill (1744-1833) once said, “If his wife, children, servants, and even his dog and cat were not better, I would not believe he was a true Christian.” Let us all say that we have a practical religion; Our relationship with God manifests as a supernatural expression of who we are. Mind your character out there in private so we can be REAL when we go public. We are truly there for what we are. Too many Christians are playing a part, putting on some form, putting on some mask as soon as they leave the house. Even the pulpit is filled with such people.
PEW POTATOES NOT POTATOES.
The only thing that can silence the critics of Christianity is for Christians to act like Christ. As I mentioned earlier, our church and Christian style entertainment is failing to do this. The word “Christian” itself means “little Christs” or “Teenage Jesus”. Of course, no one acted more Christ-like than Christ Himself. Although He was crucified, He knew from the beginning of His ministry that His crucifixion was imminent. NEWSFLASH: Spiritual death must also happen to all who follow him. However, many will face physical death as well as the immediate consequences of their faith in Him. WARNING: Before you really decide to follow Jesus, count the cost.
Finally, this life is not “this” for us. We have a purpose and we will never find fulfillment in transit unless we do what we were created to do while we are here. Until then, any happiness we find will be temporary. Every happy moment will be short. Let us all aim to be imitators of Christ in our hearts and make a difference when we can.
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