Following the Right Examples

Who are our Models

Phil. 4:15-19

“Brethren, join in following my example and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.”

 

            Everyone has someone they look up to and try to emulate.  They have lived a type of life and have attained accomplishments that we want to have for ourselves. Some of our heroes are well-known and have become public figures who lived before us and whose writings or social media have impacted our lives. We know them through their writings or podcasts and have sought to live by their words.  Other people are more obscure and unknown.  They are the people with whom we have had personal contact and who have influenced our lives by how they live.  Their impact has not been through their words but through their example.  They have lived how we want to, so we look to them as individuals who have paved the path before us.  For other people, their heroes may have attained fame and recognition.  They follow their podcasts and see them as “social influencers,” people who influence others simply because they have become famous and the model (at least in some people’s minds) of success.  

            In this passage, Paul recognizes that we all have individuals that we follow. However, he warns us to carefully examine them to ensure that we have the proper standard by which we determine how we want to live and whom we follow as examples.  Having pointed us to Christ and the importance of following Him, Paul reminds us to examine the standard we strive to live by.  The most crucial question we must ask is not whom we follow but what is the standard by which we seek to live our lives and desire to emulate in others.  This takes us back to the previous verses. The standard that we are to live by is the standard of Christ and His righteousness.  In verse nine, Paul pointed out that his standard was not the standard of men but the standard of Christ.  He desired to live in a way that manifested Christ’s character.

            Having set the right standard, he turns to the people we follow and seek to emulate.  Paul warns us that there are many false examples.  They are people who are not followers of Jesus and who promote lifestyles that are contrary to the life of Christ.  These are people we are to avoid. Instead of leading us towards Christ, they lead us to destruction.  Instead of focusing on righteousness, they are focused on the materialism, morality, and desires that mark the world apart from Christ. 

            Paul then points us to the right example by calling us to follow his example.  However, Paul is not being arrogant by holding himself up as the ideal model.  In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul establishes the priority by stating, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”  In other words, we must follow Paul’s example as he points us to Christ and how Christ lived.  This gives us the basis for evaluating whom we seek to pattern our life after.  We are to examine their life and character by Christ's life, character, and teaching.  We are to follow them not because of their fame or fortune but for their godliness and Christlikeness.  We are to follow people, not because they have the life we want, but because they live that life that Christ desires.

            We need to examine and evaluate the people we read, the people we watch, and the people that we listen to.  If they are not followers of Jesus and point us to him, we need to change our models, for we become those we admire and pattern ourselves after.  Do we follow people who desire to be like Jesus?  

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