More is Caught than Taught
We Must Be Holy to Teach Holiness
We must follow Jesus if we want to teach others to do so.
“Follow me following Christ” is Paul’s simple direction to the churches.
The disciples Paul was leading will never lose sight of Christ if they see Christ in Paul. It is a Jesus centered game of Simon Says. This makes sense when considering how most people learn effectively. It can be hard to apply abstract concepts from the Bible to our lives at times. It is so much easier when we see them lived out.
This is the example Jesus models for us in the Bible. People learn more by watching our lives than by listening to us. We must live the life following Jesus without reservation first in order for others to learn how to do the same. Personal holiness is an essential qualification point for anyone who seeks to disciple others.
It is a simple concept but it is also key to teaching godliness in others.
Follow Christ openly and clearly first. Then tell others how to follow Christ openly and clearly. And tell them to watch you following Christ fully…then wash, rinse and repeat.
The example we set for others in our everyday walk makes an impression that lasts for years.
We are Always Teaching…for Good or Ill
My father had a tradition. Whenever we went into a supermarket, he would swing by the candy aisle. Dad would grab one of the bags of candy and open it up while still in the store. He would then give the candy to us kids to eat as we shopped. As kids this was awesome. What child does not like candy? When it was time to check out, Dad would turn a quiet corner at the market and slip the opened bag of candy back onto the shelf. He would never pay for the candy.
This practice continued throughout my childhood. As a kid, it provided me with joy despite the wrongness of it. Sugary treats and attention from my Dad were both desperately lacking in my life so I savored them both. I did not understand how wrong it was as this was my example.
The desire to pass on this tradition was strong when I became a father. The memories of the joy surrounding eating candy clashed against the realization it was theft. I never carried out the tradition, but I sure did want to. This clear example was hard to unlearn.
Be the Holy Example
I thought of the supermarket candy while pondering Paul’s words in 2 Thessalonians, specifically:
But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you;
2 Thessalonians 3:6-7
Paul writes to Thessalonika about the members of the church who are unruly or walk in disobedience. The word he uses for unruly is a military term that means out of step or not in line with the rest of the group. Earlier in 1 Thessalonians, Paul told the church that these folks should be warned about their disobedience. They should be taken aside and shown where they are violating Scripture. The goal is to bring those out of line back in the proper order.
Paul goes further in this passage. He states that if the unruly brothers are not repentant, the church should withdraw from them. The idea is to remove the comfort and love of the church from them. It is not to hurt them. Rather, the point is so the offender will feel the sting of his own sin and turn back to God.
Jesus also covers this church discipline process in Matthew 18.
15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
This is not sin sniffing. It is not disagreeing with you about politics, using instruments, or even just being annoying. This section deals with someone who is in open, unrepentant sin. It assumes that the steps from Matthew 18 have been carried out and every attempt to bring the struggling brother back into fellowship has failed. This is not a brother who is struggling, but one who is not. This is someone completely given over to their sin. They have chosen sin and know they are choosing sin.
Paul says not to be like them and not to keep company with them.
Set an Example for the Believers
What is amazing is how he tells the church to judge that what he says is true and possible to carry out. Paul says they can know what he is saying is true and right by comparing the disobedient brother’s conduct to him.
Paul’s life and his example are so aligned with Jesus, the church can look to him when in confusion. When in doubt follow me is Paul’s clear message. He expresses a similar sentiment in 1 Corinthians 11:1
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ
and 1 Timothy 4:12
but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
Follow me following Christ is Paul’s simple direction to the churches. They should walk like Paul does following Jesus.
It is simple as all get out in concept. It is also the key to discipleship.
Follow Christ, tell them others to follow Christ, tell them to watch you following Christ and then walk that out.
Are you doing it?
Imitate Me as I Imitate Jesus
The questions are so simple even a child can answer.
Are we able to exhort others to be imitators of us as we imitate Christ?
Are we trying to imitate Christ?
This does not mean follow Christ perfectly but earnestly and continually.
In victory and in defeat, in much or want, are we following Christ so that the one following us can see us and be taught to do the same!
If we do so, then we have done everything we can to disciples a man or woman of God.
If not, then what sin have we left crouching at someone’s door. My dad did not mean to lead me into a life of thievery. He did not intend to set a bad example. Eating candy while food shopping was probably something his parents did with him. Sin gets passed along generations. Yet, his example created a powerful model for me to imitate and wrestle with.
What is your example?
Christ or not? We are either gathering or scattering. Which is it for you?