Saturday, July 11, 2020

Thessalonians Words ~ Day 6: Model

Day 6: Model

My daughter has always been a very busy child. She began to walk at 9 months and never slowed down. Getting her to sit still in her highchair was a chore. I remember the first time I saw my daughter imitate me. She had placed one of her dolls in her highchair, and although I could not make out her words, her wagging finger in the doll's face spoke volumes! Seeing our children model our behavior or words can be an eye-opening experience. For parents, every instance of our children modeling us may not reveal us at our best, this is not the case with Paul. Paul's idea of modeling begins with Christ.

When Jesus began His ministry on earth, He came at a time when the leading religious group for God's people, the Pharisees, had made following God about a very long list of behaviors. These behaviors were supposed to be reflections of a holy life. Instead they became a grueling list of 613 laws that everyone was supposed to follow. They created a way of life that was impossible to live up to and so it became a burden to the people, and a way of "lording over" the people to the Pharisees. The laws became mere outward behaviors that lost connection with the heart.

Jesus enters the scene inviting others into His way of life with the simple words, "Follow me". He was not simply asking people to come along with Him, but to be devoted to Him and to learn and imitate His way of life. Jesus modeled the Father's way of life in the midst of everyday life. His followers watched how He lived and interacted with people. Many of His teachings and lessons took place as they were going about life, using everyday things like farming and children to teach them the ways of the Kingdom. He described His way of life this way:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Follow Me, Learn from Me.

Paul then took up his ministry with the same mindset. He followed the example of Christ's teachings and life, and then modeled it for the people who ministered with him, and to those he taught as he planted churches all over. He shared his life with the people he shared the gospel with as he says in the Thessalonian letters (1 TH 1:5; 2:8). A theme in many of his letters.

"Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." 1 Corinthians 11:1

"Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church." 1 Corinthians 4:15-17

"Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do." Philippians 3:17

Paul commends the church at Thessalonica because they are imitating Christ's life seen in the way Paul and his disciples live among them, and then they are modeling it to those they live among. 
"You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere."  1 Thessalonians  1:6-8
Not only that, but Paul says they are modeling it to other churches throughout the regions of Macedonia and Achaia as well. For a church to be a model, it must have leaders and individuals in it who are living out the ways of Christ. There are some important reasons here for God's call on us to live out our faith in the midst of a Christian community. We need leaders and others in our lives who will show us what living a holy life looks like. We need to be intimately and frequently involved with people who are modeling, imitating, following Christ, and living as examples of His life. And the church needs us - each one of us - to be those who are living out the ways of Christ as best we can. We are each a little bit ahead of someone else and can lead and teach with our lives. And then together, we are all needed to help build up our churches to show Christ to the world.

In the midst of the pain and suffering, the tension and frustration, the overwhelm of sickness and death we face in our current situations today, we need to show others who Jesus is. We all need to know His compassion, love, hope and joy. We can extend His kindness, His willingness to serve and help others. We cam to offer others His gifts of compassion, love, mercy, grace, and peace. Every issue and situation seems to cause more division and arguments right now. Jesus came to break down barriers and to bring peace. We are called to imitate Him.

Wherever you are on your journey of faith -just beginning or having walked with Christ for a long time - you are further along in the journey than someone else. I pray that we will all find God's grace as we strive to imitate Christ to those around us. Strive to be His model to someone else in your life.

For the next few days we will take a detailed look at how I use each of the Internet Bible study sites I listed in the chart I introduced yesterday. Head over the the Bible Study Techniques page for a look at Bible Gateway and their incredible search engine for the Bible. Seminary students and pastors often have to  invest in expensive Bible software to be able to study the Bible in depth. We may not want or be able to invest in expensive programs, but we can get some of the same benefits from these wonderful sites that have been developed on the internet. I remain thankful to the developers of these sites who bring these tools to us to help us open God's Word to greater meaning and significance. Finding and learning how to use the tools on these sites opened the door for deeper Bible study for me, and they helped increase my love for studying God's Word.

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