Discipleship,  Life

Imitating God

Have you read the Bible? I mean really read the Bible?

If so, you know one of the most understated verses in the Bible is Romans 3.23 which says that we all fall short of God’s glory.

One of the reasons I like the Bible is because it is real. It shows the good, the bad, the ugly, and the really ugly. We have heroes like David, Paul, and many others who were far from perfect. In fact, apart from Jesus, I think Daniel is about as close to perfect as we might find based upon the evidence in the Bible.

The reality is that knowing our biblical heroes are so flawed should give us hope. You may think you are a good person, but that is compared to other people. When we really read what God is asking of us, we cannot help but feel like a failure.

And yet, God promises to transform us into the image of the perfect Christ (Romans 8.29)!

However, we must do our part, as is made clear in Ephesians 4.1 and 5.1. Last week’s post was about walking worthy of our calling (Eph 4.1). Then in 5.1, Paul wrote that we are to be imitators of God.

The reality is that we cannot begin to do that on our own. Is it even fair for God to demand that of us? No. At least not in our own power. And that is just another reason why God is so great.

In Ephesians 5.1, the word imitates is in the middle voice. This means that we are to be both active and passive. We are to do something and also to allow something to be done to us. Specifically, we are to seek to imitate God by reading, studying, and living our lives as He would have us live. But knowing this is impossible for us on our own, God is the one who empowers this imitation through the Holy Spirit within those who are His children.

The idea is paralleled in Jesus words as recorded by Matthew (4.19). Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will make you….” The idea is that if we choose to follow Jesus, He is the one who will change us in to what He wants us to be.

We must do our part (follow). As we do, Jesus will do His (make us).

But as I mentioned last week, the idea of following is both an invitation and command. If we look at this same invitation in Mark, we see a few more details.

The invitation to follow was given specifically to Peter and Andrew (Mark 1.17). Then, “going a little farther” Jesus extended the same invitation to James and John. We are not told the exact words Jesus gives here, but it is safe to assume the words had the exact same meaning, and were probably the same words.

James and John followed. Just as Peter and Andrew had followed. But Zebedee and the other servants who were in the boat did not, at least not at this time.

Why did Zebedee and the others not follow? Any answer is truly speculative, but if we put ourselves in the same boat (pun, not really intended), the reality is the demands of life. Zebedee was responsible for his business. The servants were responsible to their boss. Bills had to be paid. Families needed care. Etc.

But that would be true for Peter and the others as well. Two paragraphs later, we are told that Jesus went into the house of Simon’s (that is, Peter’s) mother-in-law. So, Peter was married (cf. 1 Corinthians 9.5), and it is possible that other disciples may have been as well.

Again, we might be able to speculate a great deal, but that is not the objective here. What we know is that Peter, Andrew, James, and John followed. The others did not, at least not at this time. By making the choice to follow, Jesus had the chance to change them. That was the condition offered. That was the statement made: “Follow Me, and I will make you….”

For those whose want to live fotonni, we must face a similar reality. We cannot truly live in, not of, without the grace and power of God being present and active in our lives. To truly live in, not of, is to imitate God (again, Ephesians 5.1) which includes forgiving and loving others to the point of self-sacrifice (the two sentences on either side of the command to imitate God).

I know I am not yet where God wants me to be. But I do believe Jesus promise to make me into more than I am, if I will choose to follow Him. That choice is not just a choice for today or tomorrow. It is a choice that must be made each day (take up your cross daily, Luke 9.23).

As I mentioned last week, you and I cannot undo yesterday or last week or last month or last year. But we can make a (different) choice for today. Then, we will have to make the choice tomorrow, and the next day, and the next for the rest of our lives.

So, will you make that choice to follow Jesus? Will you let Him make you into more than you are and more than you can even imagine yourself being (cf. Ephesians 3.20)?

Just like the people in the Bible, I may not be anything near perfect. But I want to make that choice to follow Jesus so He can change me and make me into someone who is truly able to imitate God – not in my power, but through His.

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