In this series, we've looked at the qualities we're told to dwell on in Philippians 4:8. Earlier in Paul's letter to the church at Philippi, there's a verse tucked away in a section subtitled, "Keep Going Forward." It's discipleship driven, but hard for me to swallow. Check it out:
Be imitators of me, brothers and sisters, and watch carefully those who are living this way, just as you have us as an example. Philippians 3:17 (NET)
In my daughter's younger years, I used to give the announcements on Sunday mornings at our church. Every week, she'd see me take the stage with a microphone, give a few updates, and lead the congregation in prayer. So, when she found herself in an empty church, with a microphone and a pulpit right there waiting, what do you think she did? Of course, she took her own spot at the microphone and shared a few announcements of her own. Every time she did this, it amazed me how much she sounded like her mom. Me.
We teach our kids to follow Jesus, but they learn how to do this by observing our own faith. While we're busy teaching them about the Creator God, our perfect Savior, Jesus, and sharing Bible stories (although these surely aren't perfect examples of godly behavior either), they are all the time watching how we do it.
Further, in this verse, Paul tells the entire church at Philippi to imitate him, and those who are living this way. I don't think this was meant for the children's sermon only. Adults were encouraged to imitate him too. Yet, everything in me balks at this concept.
When you set out to live a holy, Christian lifestyle, don't imitate me.
Upon closer examination though, I look to other Christians as an example. We're always observing how others serve Jesus, and finding ways we'd like to emulate.
The lady in our church whose corporate prayers are so eloquent.
The retired man who works more hours traveling around the world to tell people in remote areas about Jesus than he ever did in the office.
The woman who would never enter into a political debate with anyone, but told me she prays for our country and its leaders every single day.
My friend who learns of a need someone has, any need, and her first inclination is to meet that need.
The father of seven children who they would see praying at the dinner table each morning when they came down to breakfast.
The couple I knew who regularly gave up Saturday and Sunday afternoons to go play church music at local nursing homes in my hometown.
Paul encourages us to dwell on whatever is admirable. I think it's OK if we look at admirable qualities in other people, and consider them godly examples. We can expect other people to look at our own lives and imitate the godliness they see. Live your life in such a way that you're willing to let others imitate you. The key, and Paul emphasizes this in a different letter he wrote to the church at Corinth, is to realize the godly things we admire, are only there because of Christ in us.
Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. I Corinthians 11:1
The admirable in us points back to him. That's what I keep reminding my daughter. That's what I want to remind you. Imitate, and watch carefully those who are living this way, but realize none of us is doing it perfectly. Dwell on the admirable qualities that look and sound and smell and feel and taste like Christ. Inevitably, you'll see lots of flaws (read sin) too. That's why we need his amazing grace.
This is the sixth post in my October series, #dwellonthesethings. Here are links to the previous articles: