As a child, many godly men and women intentionally invested their time into my life. Most of these were members of the local church congregation in my neighborhood. They made sacrifices to ensure there was an example of Christ-likeness available for me and others to pattern our lives after. I consider many of these ‘heroes,’ not only of my childhood, but my entire life.
Here’s a challenging question from Don Carson’s small book, ‘From the Resurrection to His Return.’ “Do we encourage new believers in Jesus Christ with the words, ‘If you want to know what Christianity looks like, look at me.’” While at first glance, we may struggle with what sounds like an arrogant statement, it may be beneficial to examine its biblical accuracy.
What it seems he’s asking is, as believers, are we secure enough in our faith to offer our visible walk with Christ as an example for younger Christians to follow? Carson concludes that if not, we aren’t living biblically.
The Great Commission anticipates our role modeling of the Christian life before younger converts, so they in turn become examples for others. After promising His followers that He had been given all authority, Jesus instructed His disciples to make more disciples. (Matthew 18-20).
While the command definitely includes ‘going’, this term is not the emphasis of the text. Many agree that the Greek word used here probably means, “while you are going.” The emphasis of Jesus’ command is ‘to make disciples’. He wants His disciples to teach and model His words and life, the gospel, to others. Consider the sentence structured this way. “While you are going, make disciples!”
Paul once encouraged his hearers, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). We see a great example of this recorded in his relationship with Timothy.
In his second letter to Timothy, Paul warned of some very bad examples who were readily available to follow, but instructed, “Choose your mentors wisely (2 Timothy 3).” Paul said, “You know my teaching, you know how I live… you see my patience, and faith, and love. Watch me and follow me.”
We live in a day of ridiculously blotched moral values. Even the very laws of the nations defend iniquity and immorality. The heroes who are applauded and followed in our cultures seldom consider the paths they forge for their admirers. Our young are susceptible to heroes with little perception of truth. Therefore, those who know Jesus must step forward and offer their life as a model of Christ-likeness.
D. A. Carson says, “The older should be looking out for the younger and saying in effect, Watch me… I’ll show you how to have family devotions, I’ll show you how to study the Bible, let me take you through the fundamentals of the faith, let me show you how to pray, let me show you how to be a good mother, father, wife, and husband… and even, let me show you how to die… to self, watch me.”
Then, paraphrasing Carson’s words, “and an encouragement to the younger… seek good mentors. Those who know and live the Word of God. Those who display mature Christian fruit and conduct. Maybe they have been tested by suffering. They demonstrate love and endurance, patience and faith, joy and steadfastness, a hunger for holiness. In this broken and sinful world, hold the right mentors in high regard.”
Paul warned Timothy in chapter four to be prepared. “People will seek teachers to tell them what sounds appealing rather than truth.” As Paul knew his time was short, his primary goal became leaving behind more than a legacy of his own life and ministry. He knew someone had to take the baton from his hand and continue the good fight.
This is no less true today. We should not insinuate our mastery of the faith, but demonstrate the grace of God as it manifests itself in our lives. We are called to be disciples… and to make disciples of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
[Portions quoted: From the Resurrection to His Return (Living Faithfully in the Last Days) - Don Carson]