For The Kingdom: Joy-Filled Living In Difficult Days | Day 55

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” Philippians 3:12-21

“OK, you are ready to jump out of a plane?”  

Ever been sky diving?  Few of us have, because it is frightening, dangerous and costly.  If you wanted to learn how to sky dive however, you would almost certainly want a more experienced sky diver to show you what to do.  If someone just handed you an instruction manual and said, “read this and get ready to jump,” you would probably pass out far before you jump out!  We all learn better and feel more confident when someone can instruct and demonstrate for us the right way to do something.  This is especially true for growing as a believer, and we all have a role in taking others along on this journey with us.  

When Paul says, “join in imitating me” and “keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” he is saying, “If you are a mature Christian, you should be leading others on this journey and if you are a new Christian, you should be following others who are striving to follow Christ.”  You might say, “I am not ready to lead others… ‘I’m not perfect’ ‘I haven’t achieved that kind of spiritual strength or maturity.’”  Look again at Paul he begins this passage saying, (v. 12) “Not that I… am perfect” but (v. 17) “join in imitating me.”  In fact, 6 times Paul says in his new testament letters to the church, “Imitate me” or “follow my example.”  

Someone is always watching. Who is watching the way you live your life?  Who is imitating your faithfulness in worship? Who is paying attention to how you treat your spouse or care for your kids? Who is listening to the way you pray?  Who is thinking of you when they are deciding how to budget their finances? Who is striving to serve like you or lead like you?  Leadership is influence and we all have an influence over others.  Jesus said if you want to be great, then you must serve others.  Servant leadership is one important way we put ourselves in a position to be imitated.  

The question is, “Am I intentional about leading others toward Christ?” Or, are we going to be like the negative example that Paul mentions next?  Will our influence reflect more of the attitudes of those who “walk as enemies of the cross?”  Who is an enemy of the cross?  Paul describes them this way-

Enemies of the Cross
1.  Focus on earthly things. (“minds set on earthly things”)
2.  Are proud of their sinful behavior. (“glory in their shame”)
3.  Live for their own personal gratification.  (“god is their belly”)

Really, this is the exact opposite mentality of those who serve in God’s Kingdom.  However, this describes many people we know… and to be honest, we can all slip into this mentality if we are not focused on Christ.  Paul says, “the end” of this lifestyle is “destruction.”  God has a road that leads to eternal life, but this path will not get you there.  It also won’t get your church where God wants it to go. It’s sad to see worldly churches that cater to peoples desires and glories in sinful behavior, but this is not the path of life that God has set for His Church.  Worldly churches may often grow because they appeal to worldly people, but Jesus never set “Church growth” as the mission or the metric for success.  He has called us to build the Kingdom of God and make obedient disciples, not specifically to grow the church.  It is possible to grow a large church and not build the Kingdom.  Vice versa, we can build the Kingdom and God may or may not grow your local church.

There is a time-tested way of learning and growing as a disciple that we should each practice. As you read this description, ask yourself- “Who can I take through this process as a disciple?”

6 Steps to Developing Disciples Like Jesus

1. I Look To Jesus:  You can never make healthy disciples if you do not first keep your eyes firmly fixed on Jesus. Like Peter, the moment we take our eyes off of Jesus, we will sink like a stone.

2. I Do. You Observe. We Discuss:  Invite others to observe the way you walk as a disciple of Jesus.  Take time to discuss the reasons for why you do what you do and what you have learned along the way.

3.  I Do. You Participate.  We Discuss:  When you give someone their first opportunity to put their faith into action, it is best to have them do it alongside of you, with you taking the lead. You instruct as they imitate.

4.  You Do. I Participate. We Debrief:  Now, it is time to let go and allow the new disciple to try to lead on their own, go on their own, grow on their own, but never alone.  Like a driver’s ed instructor, assure them and offer help as needed.  Afterwards, discuss what went well and where to improve for the future.

5.  You Do. I Observe.  We Debrief:  You have established a level of trust and confidence in your growing disciple, and they are now ready to fly (or dive) solo.  You are still involved, but only as an observer and to offer ongoing insight.

6.  You Do What I Did With Someone Else:  This is where discipleship goes from addition to multiplication.  A disciple, in the truest sense, is one who makes disciples.  This is the goal of disciple-making.  Now that someone has learned to imitate you, like you imitate Christ, they should do the same with someone else. This is exactly what the Apostle Paul did with Timothy, to whom he wrote these words,

“The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful people who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Timothy 2:2

“Now, you are ready to jump out of a plane?”

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