By James Metsger
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. (Philippians 3:17-19)
You’ve heard of the game “Follow the Leader”? Paul invites us to play a game called “Follow the Follower.” Jesus is clearly the perfect leader for us, but since we don’t have a flesh and blood Jesus walking among us today, I think it’s pretty gracious of God to give us permission to follow the examples of those around us. Let’s be honest though, there are challenges to following the example of people. If you follow close enough, you’ll see their imperfections. If you follow long enough, you’ll see their sin. Nevertheless, Scripture calls us to follow godly examples. Paul was a follower of Jesus leading other followers to imitate him in imitating Jesus. He includes other godly examples like Timothy and Epaphroditus when he says, “keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (3:17).
Years ago, I was having breakfast with a friend, and I commented to him before ordering that I needed to eat healthier and lose a few pounds. I then proceeded to order a muffin loaded with sugar and a Greek yogurt. I felt pretty proud of myself for not pounding down pancakes and bacon. He called me later that day and said, “Um, James, I don’t know if you were serious about eating heathy, but what you ate for breakfast wasn’t that healthy.” And then he said, “If I were you, I’d find someone who is healthy, ask him what he does, and then do it.” What great advice! But humbling. Asking for advice may seem like an admission of our own weakness, lack of insight or maturity, but Proverbs 12:15 assures us of the opposite: “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.”
We must have discernment in whom we choose to imitate since Paul warns us to beware of those who walk as enemies of Christ. Even the most successful and “wise” person in the secular world is ultimately a foolish example to follow because they themselves do not follow Christ. Instead, we should be looking to people who walk with Christ and are friends with Jesus. These people point us to Christ who is the supreme example for us. When we follow godly men and women, we will inevitably find people who parent well, who handle their finances wisely, who are mature in their faith, and who don’t choose sugar-laden muffins as a healthy breakfast choice. Don’t be too proud to ask them what they do. And then ask the Lord to give you the desire and strength to follow him by putting those things into practice.
The world provides us with countless examples of those not worth following:
For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. (Philippians 3:18)
People who do not follow Christ pursue their own appetites and desires—even the so-called “good” people! Their longings become their gods. Instead of grieving their brokenness, they celebrate their sin, and set their minds on what is temporary—earthly things. Don’t follow them! Instead, follow godly examples, those who look first and foremost to Jesus who is both the author and perfector of faith.
Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. (Philippians 3:17)
Follow the follower.
Whose example am I following?
In what ways am I doing what they do?