Prepare to listen. Be still to cultivate the attitude suggested in these words from Isaiah: Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. (Isaiah 55:3)
Read Philippians 3:17-4:1
17Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. 18For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. 19Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. 20But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21He will transform the body of our humiliation so that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. 1Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.
Paul says, ‘join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us.’ Paul saw himself as an example for the young church in Philippi. “Imitate me!” Most of us would prefer to say, “Please don’t imitate me.” How could Paul dare to make such a remarkable demand? I suggest it was because he took seriously what he preached to others, that becoming Christian wasn’t a once-off decision but a journey. After we believe in Jesus there is a lifetime of living in the way of Jesus, of being transformed from the sinful ways of the world into the ways that reflect more and more of God’s love for the world.
Jesus, says Paul, doesn’t come to lift us up out of this messy world. Yes, ‘our citizenship is in heaven,’ but this doesn’t mean that we’re sitting in a waiting room until we get there. No! Jesus comes to us in this messy world to transform us now and conform us, bit by bit, into his image. How to live in this new and transformed way needs examples, men and women who’ve gone before us and discovered how and show us the way. Paul is one of them and so he can urge the young church in Philippi, ‘Imitate me.’ We who claim to be followers of Jesus are now committed to this new way of living, a way that seeks God’s will to be done on earth as in heaven and that forms us to become examples for others to imitate.
Who are the examples of committed Christian living that you are following today? Can you keep striving towards following Jesus so that you too can encourage another to imitate you?
Respond to Jesus in prayer
It scares me, Lord to encourage others to imitate me, but I want to keep on being transformed into your likeness so that I can be an example to others to follow you more faithfully. With your help, I know I’ll get there one day. Amen.
Go and live obediently in the world, as imitators of Christ and his faithful followers.
Reading the Bible has always been essential to followers of Jesus. I've been reading, studying, teaching and writing reflections on biblical texts for as long as I can remember. I invite you to read the Bible with me during the Lent and into Easter Sunday.