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A Mirror for Jesus

Lesson 3: Imitate good, not evil

Dear friend, do not imitate 
what is evil but what is good.  
Anyone who does what is good 
is from God.
3 John 11

Occasionally in our lives we are asked to state who we consider to be our “hero or who we most admire.”  According to the annual United States Gallup poll the incumbent president is usually top of mind when Americans name, without prompting, which man living anywhere in the world they admire most. In the 74 times Gallup has asked the open-ended most admired man question since 1946, the incumbent president has topped the list 60 times.

When you look at the list from 2020, four of the “most admired men alive today” are politicians, one is a government employee, two are businessmen, one is an athlete and two are religious leaders.  Billy Graham is the all-time vote getter while he was still living with 61 appearances in the top 10 of this list.  That fact made me feel slightly better.

Although as a society we seem to easily agree that most politicians are not typically ones to be trusted we, for some reason, continue to view them as someone to admire.  

Growing up I would have done a “hard pass” on who to write down when asked this question.  I lived a fairly sheltered life – not much TV, only one friend, my parents didn’t have many friends.  And I wouldn’t have written my mom or dad on that list.  At various times in my life I’ve thanked God for somehow keeping me on a halfway straight path due to limited guidance.

According to Forbes magazine these are the ten qualities people admire most in others:

  1. Humility
  2. The ability to learn
  3. Integrity
  4. Responsibility
  5. Resilience
  6. Compassion for others
  7. Respect for others
  8. Big visions
  9. Inspire others
  10. The ability to “reinvent themselves”

After reading this list, did anyone come to mind?  I doubt that it was a politician.  When I got married I finally met someone that does a pretty good job meeting the high standards of this list – my mother in law.  I set upon a path of being more like her.  Someone who is kind to everyone, offers a friendly “hello” at all times, thinks of and serves others, and is always looking on the bright side.  While attempting to mirror her I realized I had, in fact, been imitating someone else all along.  Someone who was inwardly focused, pessimistic, frequently angry, and had difficulty showing love.  

At the end of John’s letter to the church elder Gaius, he warns us to be careful who we choose to imitate.  He has made the case that another church leader, Diotrephes, while powerful and surely had a large following, was not up to the standards set by Jesus.  He instead turns Gaius to another Christian brother, Demetrius.

Demetrius is well spoken of by 
everyone—and even by the truth 
itself. We also speak well of him, 
and you know that our testimony 
is true.
3 John 12

You notice it isn’t enough to have others speak well of someone.  John reminds us that the “truth” must also be used as a measuring stick.  There are many famous people on Gallup’s “most admired men alive” list.  And many have well known, serious transgressions.  Carelessness with the truth has been one of those.  But because they are famous we humans tend to set many bad behaviors aside.

When I was coaching girls softball, I watched the habits and techniques of many of the successful coaches.  I gleaned a lot of good coaching skills from them.  But there wasn’t one, at the time, that I could name as most admirable.  Many parents, on the other hand, admired those coaches because they won trophies.  What they didn’t mind was the abusive behavior toward their young daughters.  Unfortunately, throughout my years in youth, high school and collegiate sports I found this to be frequently the case.  And parents expected other coaches to imitate this same behavior, thinking that was a winning formula.

Last year, my BSGs (Bible Study girls) embarked on a new study called “The Proverbs 31 Woman.”  Now there’s a woman to admire!  Here’s an excerpt from this long list of character traits to imitate:

She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
Proverb 31: 15-18

Each week we would take a verse and apply it to our lives.  From our relationship with our husbands to our finances, our work ethic to our own health we were presented with a truly admirable touchstone for our lives.  We cleaned out our closets and our minds.  We took a hard look at our finances and our eating habits.  We used God’s Word rather than the world of the flesh to imitate.

In our world today so many people are trying to imitate the latest Instagram influencer or sports figure.  We see “success” or fame as proof they are worthy of imitation.   We put people like Joanna Gaines or Elon Musk up high on our list. Meanwhile there are Jesus followers, who just do the good work day in and day out that truly deserve our imitation.

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

It might seem like it takes a real discerning, wise mind to know who to imitate.  But we all truly know when we’ve met that “someone.”  We just then need to measure that person against God’s truth. And yes, we all sin.  We all have something to which we must repent to God.  But I’d rather imitate a loving, self sacrificing person who doesn’t always use her time wisely than a person who causes chaos and destruction in her wake.

Take a moment today and evaluate the answer to the question, “Who do you most admire?”  Be honest.  It’s easy to throw off platitudes.  No one else but God is listening.  Until we can face the evil we are imitating we cannot fully become the mirrors for Jesus.

bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, Faith, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

The True Story of God With Us

Therefore the Lord himself 
will give you a sign: 
The virgin will conceive 
and give birth to a son, 
and will call him Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:14

At the time that Isaiah spoke this prophecy the nation of Judah was under a large threat from Assyria.  Alliances were being pressured and formed.  King Ahaz of Judah refused to align himself with the northern tribes because he had secretly made a pact with the Assyrians.  He didn’t grab hold of God’s past deliverances and trust God to save him and his people.  

Isaiah made his prophesy about the coming savior to the entire House of David as a warning to trust God and no one else.  God is with us (“Immanuel”) in so far as we are willing to trust and believe Him.

God is with me.  I hold on tightly to the knowledge that His Holy Spirit dwells in my heart, mind and soul.  It’s a promise completely fulfilled with Jesus.  And yet, I still occasionally fall into the trap of looking for a savior outside that promise.  A chance to make more money, a politician who scatters promises like birdseed, a new diet to get me “back on track” or a vaccine that will make the world “normal” again.

Promise made and promises broken

My BSGs just finished a section in our study of Everyday Theology.  It focused on scripture – its validity, relevance, purpose and origins.  We discussed how our modern times reflect Biblical times in so many ways.  Warring political factions, the lack of faith, and how the promises of God still stand true for today.  

Our world needs to grab on to the truths of scripture.  The Bible isn’t just some book some random guys put together.  It is what the study author calls, “God-breathed.”  There is no other book on the planet that has as much historical evidence to support what it says.  I asked the group why did the author choose to start a book about theology with the topic of scripture rather than say, God?  

One member responded quite rightly, “Because the Bible gives us the character of God so we can better understand who He is.”  

I gave the visual of using an encyclopedia book – yes, the actual book.  In the ole timey days we would hear about something and turn to the encyclopedia to learn more about it.  We knew what was written in that book was true.  No doubts.  After reading all about say, Marie Curie, we could be assured we knew just about everything we needed to know.

That’s how we should view the Bible – the true and relevant encyclopedia about God.  And know that it’s all true.  So, when Isaiah prophesizes the birth of Jesus hundreds of years prior to his birth, we can see it as confirmation of the whole story being true.

All Scripture is God-breathed 
and is useful for teaching, 
rebuking, correcting and training 
in righteousness, so that the 
servant of God may be thoroughly 
equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17

And knowing it is true – that Jesus came to be our savior and the Holy Spirit would dwell in us for all time – should cause us to look toward Him and hold on to Him as our only savior.