Jun21WedJune 21, 2017
These days, our family tends to spend more time playing in our front yard. Our older two either climb the tree, play catch or relax in a chair with a book. Our younger two splash around in a water table or push toys around the sidewalk.
However, when we head inside, a few interesting things often occur. The younger two enjoy opening the screen door and holding it open for all of us as we enter. Our older two then proceed to take off their shoes immediately at the door’s entrance. Now I don’t recall telling them to do these kind gestures. I suppose that they learned them by observing their mother and me.
Modeling a ‘way of life’ is a powerful teaching tool and often very easy to overlook. From my experience, being aware of this form of disciple-making is humbling and convicting at the same time because there are certainly negative habits which I can easily pass along to our kids as well. Here's the truth: children are learning even when we don’t think that we are teaching!
I mention this topic of ‘modeling’ because the Apostle Paul began his letter to the Thessalonians (from our daily reading) by reminding these younger believers about the significance of imitating a gospel ‘way of life.’ He went on to explain some of what that entails.
First, we are to imitate the lifestyle of Jesus by imitating the Godly people who have also imitated Jesus (v6). Paul said it more clearly in First Corinthians when he wrote, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). Christians need spiritual ‘fathers’ and ‘mothers’ who model Jesus-like living within their specific culture because we can often struggle to put Jesus’ life and teaching into our current context.
Secondly, faith needs to be more than a Sunday morning confession. It needs to be consistently lived out. In other words, we are to take what we have been taught by Jesus and our ‘spiritual parents’ and do it! Paul praised the Thessalonian Christians because their ‘way of life’ had already made an impact in the surrounding regions. Many people in the community knew that this small group of believers were serving the living God and that example was spreading (1:9-10)!
Thirdly, as a matter of instruction, Paul taught them to use their words not to please people but to please God. We ought not to use our words to flatter someone’s ego. Instead we are to be gentle and affectionate in order to share the gospel and build authentic relationships (verses 5-9). Through all of these instructions, the Apostle Paul was encouraging them to live a life worthy of God’s calling (1 Thess 2:12). He affirmed that this new pattern of living is more likely to be caught than taught.
As you face this week, I encourage you to think about the ‘way of life’ which you are modeling to those who know you the best. To those who are parents, which habits will your children inherit from you, their earthly parents, which may be inconsistent with their Heavenly Father? Certainty, we won’t always model Jesus-like living perfectly. But we should be modeling some kind of life which looks increasingly like Him as we depend upon the Holy Spirit more.
Let’s all pray about the example we are setting and ask the Lord lead us into an authentic life worthy of imitating - for the glory of God.