Being An Imitator Of Christ

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Series: Other Speakers

Sun am 13 April 2014 – Justus Swart

John 16:33; 1 John 2:6; Luke 4:28; John 7:30; Matt. 16:21-25;
(1 Cor. 11:1); Acts 27:13-44; Acts 28:1-6

The conviction of our heart is that Jesus has overcome. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33). So many people try to take the risk out of life. We want to know where we are going. We want to ensure a good result at the end of our choices. The unfortunate truth is that we can never strip life of its mysterious qualities. Unpredictable things are going to happen but that is what our faith is about; walking true and walking faithfully before our God in a world that does not even recognize that He exists. That is part of our humanity; that is who we are. We are not to wish away our humanity for this is exactly what God came to save. The Bible does not tell us that Jesus came down to be a philosophical idea or a universal principle or a law but that He came down into His created reality as a man. God came down to be a man. Unless you are able to accept your status as man you will never be able to accept God’s grace and mercy. It is only when we realize how mortal we are that we are able to recognize God in all His sovereignty. God has a way of redeeming our human nature. And he does this by inviting us to become imitators of Christ. We all interpret that differently. What does it mean to be an imitator of Christ?

Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did (1 John 2:6). It is hard to capture the entirety of what this statement is asking of us. We often read into this statement our own personal understanding of Jesus and His ministry. Jesus simply by being who He was threatened an entire political system and made claims about His identity which seemed to be utter blasphemy. To the Pharisees He was a blasphemous man who came saying “I am the Son of God”. This statement in itself threatened all the religious authorities so much that they could not handle it. Jesus was not just a good man; He was the Son of God who was goodness. These two claims cannot be separated. He was often labeled as a mad-man or a political zealot. The gospel tells us of instances when the crowd got so mad that they wanted to capture Him and kill Him without even putting Him on trial (Luke 4:28-30). They could not handle what He was saying; it was so much out of their frame of reference. At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come (John 7:30). These people were so angry at this point that they wanted to kill Jesus. The message that we carry within us is not something that is polite, it is not nice but it is in fact upsetting yet it is the most worthy message of all time.

This puts imitating Christ in a whole new perspective when John says: “we must walk as Jesus walked”. I am talking about being completely and wholly captured by the redemptive plan of God for humanity. Jesus was never a troublemaker for troublemaking sake nor was he controversial for controversy sake but He was simply walking in His calling.

Firstly, no amount of resistance was going to throw him off track. How many of us can say that at some point or another we were distracted from completing a task because of certain opposition or a fear that people were not going to receive well what we were going to do? We cannot write off the good aspects of Christianity. Of course we have to be good, kind, patient but we cannot just stop there. Our faith inspires us to go beyond these good acts. We have a calling; we are part of a plan. If being good and nice are the high points of our faith then we will never walk in to suffering willfully or ask others to share in it because it would not be well received. Rather than concentrating our efforts on avoiding any situation that will ask us to sacrifice we should be sure of what we are called to. This means that when a bad or a good situation happens we are able to give God the glory. That is because we are walking in something that is not determined by how others receive it or respond to it.

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” (Matt. 16:21-23). Peter thought that he was looking out for Jesus’ best interests, but Jesus’ rebuke was not gentle at all. In the interest of caring, Peter appears to Jesus as a stumbling block.  Peter failed to see that it was this to which Jesus was called.

It is not the task of church leaders to eradicate suffering from the church but it is the task of church leaders to give value and meaning to that suffering by pointing to the cross.  We ought to remind ourselves that Jesus walked to the cross. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (Matt. 16:24-25). This is a double-edged sword. When you hear somebody going through a hard time, are you going to be the person pointing to the exit or are you the person that is willing to walk through the hard times with the person?

Secondly, know when God is calling you so that when there is a temptation to walk away from your difficulties you will know that God is there in it with you. Jesus stood firm even though somebody so close to Him said it should not happen to Him. Even when it comes from the friendliest of places, there can be a temptation to abandon something God has called you to.

Thirdly, Paul and his companions experienced devastation on their journey to Rome. He heard the Word from God “Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you” (Acts 27:24). Paul never doubted his conviction regardless of everything going terribly wrong.  He has to remain focused on the fact that God had spoken. Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.” But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god (Acts 28:1-6). Sometime we have the mentality that devastation or difficulty is a sign that God isn’t with us or that it is God’s way of punishing us and we withdraw from our conviction. There is a terrible misunderstanding in Christianity that the path of those who walk with Jesus will be easy and painless. The key to being an imitator of Christ is in Jesus’ response to Peter which indicates that our mind should not be on the things of man but on the things of God. Unless we have our minds on the things of God 1) we will never be able to stand in the face of opposition and 2) We will not be able to discern when we have to reject the advice of others. We must know the voice of God in our lives. We must be able to stand on the conviction that God has given us.  3) We must not look to external circumstances as the indication of our position in God. Remember that outside opposition, internal opposition and external forces do not define our conviction. You must be able to refuel in your time alone with God and refocus. The church is here to go on this journey with you, stand with you, trying to figure it out with you.

“What we do when we educate kids to be happy and self-fulfilled is to absolutely ruin them. Parents should say to their kids, “What you want out of life is not happiness but to be part of a worthy adventure, you know you want to have something worth dying for. It is awful when all we have to live for is ourselves. That is what the gospel reveals to us. The good news tells us of an adventure that humans have been made part of through God’s grace, through Christ and through the Church. God made each Christian part of God’s sacrificial life so that the world might know that it is not abandoned but that there is salvation. That is who Christians are.” Stanley Hauerwas

The only way we can imitate Christ is to have our mind on the things of God. You must know the mind of God; that is the essential key. Dedicate yourself to knowing the mind of God.