(This article is part of the series “Building GenNext.” You can read the previous post by clicking here.)
The next three posts in this series are going to address the second in ‘E’ in Raising Gen-Next Christians: Exemplify: Demonstrating how a Christian ought to live. Before launching into the mechanics of how to be an example to our children, new Christians and other believers, we need to address who our example ought to be.
Several years ago, there was a commercial on TV in which a young boy was following his father everywhere and attempting to imitate him in every way. The commercial concluded with the Father smoking a cigarette and the son trying to mimic the action. The shock of that concluding seen was intended to discourage parents from smoking, because children would ultimately do the same. Our example shouts louder than our words.
When we become a Christian, we are born to a new life, adopted by God, and endowed with a new name. We have to re-learn how to live in order to resemble our new Father. Like a little child, we want to do what our Father does so we can make him happy. Jesus demonstrated this during his life on earth.
We have one small problem: Jesus lived on earth 2000 years ago! He didn’t live in modern-day society with all it’s quirks nor did the church exist while he was on earth. So how are we supposed to know what we ought to do in various situations? This is where good, hard, life-long analysis of God’s word and experienced Christians come in. Those who have been following the Lord for a long time should have a working knowledge of what God desires and should be an example worth following. If they reflect Jesus, they will be an example for others to do likewise.
Paul told the Corinthians, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11.1) Paul was not perfect. He was prone to the foibles of humanity. He was only worth following if his life was patterned after Christ’s life. If Paul had strayed off the path, his example would no longer be worthwhile, yet inevitably, those who were ignorant of Christ would likely follow in his footsteps. A poor example can destroy the gullible soul.
What is your goal? Do you desire to drift aimlessly through life, following your own heart and doing what seems right to you? Or is your goal to know God and be like Christ?
Consider the words of this hymn:
Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me,
All His wonderful passion and purity.
May His Spirit divine all my being refine
Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.
When somebody has been so unkind to you,
Some word spoken that pierces you through and through.
Think how He was beguiled, spat upon and reviled,
Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in you
From the dawn of the morning till close of day,
In example in deeds and in all you say,
Lay your gifts at His feet, ever strive to keep sweet
Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in you.
~ Albert Orsborn
“From the dawn of the morning till close of day, in example, in deeds and in all you say… let the beauty of Jesus be seen in you.” Before we speak or act, we need to consider how Jesus would speak or act. In order to do this, we need to have a working knowledge of his life and his words.
4 Things We need to do to imitate Christ: Read. Pray. Observe. Apply.
Read: Be immersed in the word
When you read the Word, focus on gaining a knowledge of who God is. Knowing the Lord should always be your aim when reading the Bible. You cannot know God intimately and understand the wherefore’s of His actions without being in the word.
Pray: Ask God for help
It isn’t easy to imitate Christ. We need God’s help because we are going to fall short. Pray that your foibles will not lead to the loss of any soul. This is one of the most pivotal reasons to be engaged in prayer. We need help to be more like Christ and we need grace when we fail.
Observe: Look at good examples.
There are excellent examples in the bible of those who lived by Faith. There are also living examples near you. Seek them out. If the people you think are good examples don’t seem to reflect the attitude of Christ in their words or deeds, then they aren’t good examples! This is why it’s so vital to be immersed in the Bible. The more it becomes part of your thoughts, the easier it is to distinguish between those led by the Spirit and those led by their own desires.
Apply: Put what you’ve learned into practice
People often accuse Christians of being brainless, but I’ll tell you right now that living a quality Christian life demands some major critical thinking. The bible isn’t a checklist, so we have to try to apply what we know to every situation in which we find ourselves. That takes some serious consideration! Knowing the bible is important, but it isn’t enough, we have to put into practice what it says.
Are you ready to reflect Christ? Is your example what it ought to be?
I hope you will continue to join me as we consider how to train up a new generation of Christians. If you missed the previous posts, here is a list: