IMITATORS OF JESUS!
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practise hospitality.
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12:12-15.
This is where the rubber meets the road!
How should this magnificent salvation, which God thought up and brought about through Jesus, make a difference in the daily lives of those who believe in Him? God told the Israelites what He expected of them after He rescued them from slavery in Egypt. Because of what He had done for them, He wanted them to be kind to one another and He spelled it out in the details of their everyday lives.
In the same way, Paul described the ways in which the followers of Jesus should respond to the ups and downs of life. God has rescued us from slavery to sin, a far worse kind of slavery than bondage to another person because it destroys the soul from the inside.
In response to God’s mercy, our first response is to give Him our bodies and our minds, allowing His Spirit, through His word, to change us by changing the way we think. We are no longer in competition with one another, but free to become who we are, and to grow our gifts through serving one another. In the atmosphere and bond of love, we can take our rightful places in Christ’s body, living and working together in harmony, showing the people in the world around us what God is like.
We need zeal and fervour – passion – to energise us, motivated by Jesus’s love for us and loving Him in return. Whatever we do for others, we do for Him. Our passion will grow as we keep gazing at Him, learning to interpret life’s experiences, good and bad, from His perspective, “seeing Him who is invisible.” Hebrews 11:27.
We have three groups of people to whom we relate – ourselves, our brothers and sisters in the church and the people around us in the world.
First of all we need to bring our own hearts into line with the Holy Spirit in us. When we allow Him to lead us. He will teach us how to respond to the difficult situations that arise in our lives as well as to the needs of other people, those in His family and even those who abuse us because we follow Jesus.
Since we are part of a family of God’s sons and daughters, we belong to each other. That means that we do life together and are part of each other in the ups and downs. Our resources do not belong exclusively to us. They are for us to share with any family member who falls on hard times. In this way, our generosity helps to maintain equality in the family and keeps the resources circulating.
Then we must get away from the idea that it does not matter how we treat unbelievers because they are enemies and not “of us”. It matters very much because we are the windows through which they see Jesus. Remember that, when His enemies were killing Him, Jesus said, “They don’t know what they are doing.” Don’t call down curses. Do the right thing – bless them and pray for them. You can go even further than that. You can come alongside them and identify with them in their joy and sorrow.
In order to relate properly to our brothers and sisters and to outsiders, we need first of all to bring our own spirits into submission to Jesus. Instead of complaining about every little thing that does wrong, build a picture in your imagination of how it will all be when Jesus returns. Then celebrate! It will be a million times better than that!
But keep your feet on the ground. Jesus warned that “stuff” will happen. Don’t blame the devil. He started it but God is still in charge. He’s busy reshaping you through the difficult times to look like His Son. That means that He wants you to learn to respond as Jesus did when life throws things at you. Instead of whining and moaning, and “taking authority over the devil”, keep in touch with God. You’ll be amazed at what He is up to!
What about the way we treat our church “family”? Paul said, “Be like your Father – generous. You’ll never be a loser if your do.” The more you share, the more will come back to you. That’s how it is with God. Have an open house and an open heart.
Paul put it like this: “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are His dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered Himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.” Ephesians 5:1 (New Living Translation).
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