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September 29 - "I" is for Imitator of Christ

September 29, 2013

D.I.S.C.I.P.L.E. Series

I is for Imitator of Christ

Phil 2:1-11

Intro:  The hymn we just sang is a great introduction into the Scripture we read before.  If our attitude is going to be the same as Christ’s then our Mind has to be the same as Christ’s also.

A Disciple is one who imitates their master/teacher/coach/idol, etc.

So lets start with this question today:  Who do you look most like?  Have you ever been told, “You act just like him!”  Having had the privilege of meeting Peggy Coleman’s Dad and then her brother, as we met to plan Fenton’s funeral, I turned to David frequently to say, “You look just like your Dad!” and then he would do something just like his Dad had done.  Have you had those experiences when you are compared to another family member?

 

Sometimes we model another person without being aware.  You spend enough time with someone, their habits or patterns could rub off on you.

 

The word “Christian” technically means “little Christ”.  So a person who professes to be a Christian is professing to be a little like Christ or a lesser version of Christ or actually, a person who is beginning to be like Christ but has a way to go. 

 

So calling yourself a Christian is making a claim that you are striving to live into the likeness of Christ.  That’s also the goal of one who claims to be a disciple of Christ, but that name carries the weight with it of being something actively being done.  It involves more than “becoming a Christian” or acknowledging that you are of the Christian faith.  Claiming the name “Christian” for your own identity implies that you are going to live into that identity.  More than a name, it is a lifestyle.

 

Last week we heard that a disciple is “D”evoted.  Today we are going to hear that a disciple is an “I”mitator of Christ.  Our Scripture is Phil. 2:1-11 which we’ve already heard.  Lets use it to look more closely at what it means to imitate Christ.

 

Paul begins with an “if/then” statement.  He says that IF having Jesus in your life means anything at all to you THEN you are encouraged to act in a particular way. Let’s look more closely.

 

1-2

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

Paul is defining what a Christian looks like.  He calls it being united with Christ – more than imitating him, but being united with him and therefore, because of that union, behaving like him.  Any of you who have not been married for too long, are you discovering that the more time you spend united to this person the more like-minded you become?  At least on some things!  Couples and then families, have a unique unity that reveals their link with one another.  So it should be between Christians and Jesus.  Our actions and thoughts should come to reflect the One we are in a relationship with.  We continually grow into it.  We have to be willing to learn what it means to live into that relationship and Paul lays it out quite nicely here: comforted by Christ’s love, the activity of the Holy Spirit in our lives as a community of faith, tenderness, compassion and all that yields like-mindedness so that we, the Christians, share the same love, and have unity.

 

This is the starting point of imitating God: Transformed by a relationship with Jesus Christ, we are shaped and molded by the Spirit and Christ’s love and it yields unity.   If we were using this as a check list for our spiritual health, how would you be doing so far?

 

3-4

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Now, we’ve had fun playing with a competition between sides for who could bring in the most food for the ministries we support.  And there is some pride in having been the winner in this competition, but imagine of the winning side became vain or conceited over their victory? What if the attitude shifted from caring about others to winning the competition?  We would be out of step with Christ because the focus needs to be our own humility and valuing the lives of those who will be helped by our donations more than ourselves.

 

Paul calls the church to humility.  I wonder how we need to specifically grow in this area of imitation?

 

5-7

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

Perhaps the greatest example of humility is in this statement.  Jesus let go of perfection to be a messy human.  How do we imitate that?  It is really easy for we humans to forget our place and try to be God.  We try to establish the rules.  We try to change what God has ordained.  We forget our dependency on God’s grace and mercy, his compassion and willingness to forgive us.  We can expect that of people who don’t follow Christ, but this is something that sets us apart as followers of Christ – as disciples.  We know the difference between God and us and are willing to admit our dependency on Him, and our need for a Savior.

 

How are you with that? 

 

And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Obedient to death?  You may be saying, “Wait a minute!  What have I gotten myself into?”  Or you may read those words and pass over them because the thought of being killed for your faith is so far removed here in America that you just can’t relate.  But this word was not written just for you here in the Pennsylvania pew.  It was written for those Christians in Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, and Nairobi who have to weigh this obedience out every day.  You see our brothers and sisters in Christ in these places are being tested in their obedience to the point of being killed for their faith.

PAKISTAN: TWIN BOMBING AT CHURCH

Grief, Rage after Pakistan Church Suicide Bombing

Members of a Taliban offshoot attacked a historic church in Preshawar last Sunday, killing more than 80 and injuring more than 150. The two suicide bombers detonated their vests inside the All Saints Church around 11:45 a.m., just as 500 worshippers were sharing a meal on the grounds of the church.

The attackers had opened fire on security guards at the church’s main gates before setting of their vests packed with 26 pounds of the explosives. The blast heavily damaged the church and nearby buildings. It was the deadliest attack on Christians in Pakistan ever.

 

AFGHANISTAN: MP SAYS 'KILL CHRISTIANS'

A member of Afghanistan’s parliament has suggested that anyone who converts from Islam to Christianity should be executed in order to stop the rapid growth of Christianity among Afghans. The declaration by Nazir Ahmad Hanafi is the latest in a series of anti-Christian statements by Afghan public officials. An Afghan news service quoted Mr. Hanafi as saying, “Numerous Afghans have become Christians in India. This is an offense to Islamic laws, and according to the Quran, they need to be executed.”

 

And in SYRIA there is ongoing persecution of those who profess Christ as pastors are questioned and persons who find Christ are afraid to tell their families for fear they will be tossed out.  (This information from VOM)

 

Persecution of Christians is real.  For them to follow Christ in obedience even to death is real, whereas for us . . . the sacrifices we may need to make pale in comparison.  But if you were giving yourself a grade, how are you doing with following Christ in radical obedience?

 

9-11

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

The example we are called to follow; the person, Jesus Christ, whom we have as our model, lived in full obedience to what God, the Father, called him to do.  Jesus was empowered to follow through.  God poured the Spirit in Jesus so that he could do the hard tasks of obedience.  The reward is that Jesus is exalted and God is honored and worshipped.  His complete obedience results in complete acknowledgement by the whole world that Jesus is Lord.

 

That’s what our whole lives, as imitators of God, as Christians, should also seek to accomplish.  We imitate Christ so that the One we love best and seek to honor is glorified and praised, not just in the church, but in the world where those who don’t yet believe can witness God’s faithfulness to His people.

Concl.  Well, Disciples of Christ.  How are we doing so far?  Are you devoted to Jesus?  Is God the One you care most about pleasing and honoring?  Are you an imitator, trying your best to do what Jesus does?  These are the first two pieces of discipleship.  Discipleship is what God wants us to be about as individual Christians and as a church set apart for his glory and his purposes.  Amen.