July 30

1 Corinthians 11:1 / Read

In one sentence, Paul captures the almost-unbelievable vision of God’s mission on earth.

Perhaps one of the sources of most disappointment is when we find out that someone isn’t who they say they are. This is especially true of those we hold in high regard and, perhaps, see as an example of the person who we long to become.

In the same way, it can be a source of great disappointment and discouragement when we experience times when we are not the people we say we are. Each of us longs to be an example for the virtues of life. We want to have a life worth living. But do we? And if not, is it possible to become the sort of person who both walks the walk and talks the talk?

Paul’s words meet our questions with both encouragement and challenge. He says emphatically, “Yes, it is possible. You can become someone who is the real thing, who can serve as an example to others of how to live.” Yet it is the method behind this message that is so vital for us to grasp.

Paul claimed to be a living example of Jesus. Think about this - really. Isn’t this arrogant and over-stated? Was he out of his mind? Jesus is perfect. Paul wasn’t. So what was he saying?

In Philippians 3:4-6, Paul essentially made the claim that he was as close to perfect as a person could get. Yet in 1 Timothy 1:13-15, he listed his significant flaws and stated that he was “the worst of sinners.” Paul knew that, when compared to other people, he had accomplished a lot. He had all of the right answers about God and he desperately wanted to please him. In the end, though, his zeal for performance caused him to miss Jesus and persecute the early church. Despite his worldly accomplishments, he couldn’t stand on his own before God.

Paul understood his need for grace and, in Jesus, understood that he had it. He didn’t have to earn his way to God anymore - in fact, he knew he never could. So, his identity was no longer found in who he was, but rather who Jesus is. That gave him the power to really change, to become the real thing.

Jesus began his mission with the words, “Follow me.” (Matt. 4:19; Mark 1:17; Luke 5:27; John 1:43) He invited a group of unqualified young people to not just learn from him, but to become like him. In Jesus, God came to earth as a living example of how to live (John 1:14). Then his first followers became living examples. Then Paul. Then generations of people until our present day.

This is the method of God’s mission to change the world by the Gospel: Imitate Christ and invite others to imitate you, all by the power of his Spirit.

  • What most grabbed your attention about Paul’s words and the commentary above?

  • To what degree is your life one worth imitating? How do you sense God leading you as you consider that question?

  • Who is mentoring your journey of faith? Who is helping you grow in love and devotion to Christ?

  • What do you sense to be your next step based on your understanding of God’s Word today?