When I was in high school a well know female Scottish singer lived in one of the villages where some of my friends lived. On day when we were in the village a gaggle of journalists (what is the collective name for a group of journalists?) asked us where this singer lived. The story was that she fronted a high-profile advertising campaign encouraging people to use electric heating and someone had told the newspapers she was getting gas central heating installed in her own home that day. There was a disparity between what she said in public and did in private, well at least when it came to central heating.
We have all seen the same thing in life, people who say one thing and do another. There have been endless scandals in some sports with athletes who have spoken out against performance enhancing drugs then being exposed as drugs cheats. And in the church, well we all know about the church. I could easily rhyme off a dozen high profile church leaders who preached one thing while doing the opposite.
Paul has something to say about this whole subject in these two verses.
16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church. 1 Corinthians 2:16-17(NIV)
I am interested in how he describes what it means to be a follower of Jesus. He talks about “my way of life in Christ Jesus.” Being a Christian, being “in Christ” is about a way of life, it entails having a distinctive lifestyle. When we are “in Christ” living in a relationship with Jesus, that relationship will show not just in what we do for a few hours on Sunday or occasionally mid week, when we “attend church” but in all of our life. Following Jesus will shape how we live in every part of our everyday life, it is as Paul says, “a way of life.” We are often reminded during the the festive season that “Dogs are not just for Christmas”, well Paul here is reminding us Christ isn’t just for Sundays.
Here is where it gets interesting, Paul says that he behaves in a certain way “my way of life of life in Christ” because he believes certain things “which agrees with what I teach” Paul’s way of life was about behaving what he was believing. What he believed was lived out in a way of life which encompassed all of his life.
There are a couple of things that struck me thinking about that. I remember talking to a Christian businessman who essentially said that if he did business as a Christian then he wouldn’t make as much money. He had divided his life into different segments and in some of those segments he tried to behave in line with what he believed and in other areas frankly, he didn’t. Paul in contrast said that what he believed about Jesus and the Gospel impact had influenced every area of his life. Following Jesus was for him a whole life, lifestyle. It should be for us too.
So, what about us?
Are there any gaps in our lives where there is a contradiction between how we are behaving and what we believe?
Are we the same follower of Jesus at work as we are in worship?
The other thing that struck me was Paul’s balance. Now this might be a slight over exaggeration, but I have seen two tendencies in the church. There is a section of the church where the focus is all on doctrine, believing the right things, knowing your bible, understanding theology. Other parts of the church put the emphasis on behaving, they want people, to love people, to show compassion, to care for the poor.
So, who is right?
I am pretty sure based on these two verses; Paul would say BOTH. If we make our Christian life mainly about believing, the danger is that it can become an intellectual cerebral and prideful affair detached from how we actually live. On the other hand, if we make it just about behaviour, we can reduce Christian living to being little more than being “nice” in a way our culture accepts or about a legalistic adherence to rules.
Paul in these two short verses helps us get to grips with sanctification in a helpful way. Sanctification is simply the process of becoming more like Jesus. I think Paul in these verses helps us see sanctification as a process of narrowing the gap between what we believe and how we behave. Of course, this side of heaven there will always be a gap but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be serious about narrowing it in the power of the Spirit. Paul had got to the place in his way of life following Jesus that the gap between what he believed and how he lived was narrow enough that he could use two frankly incredible words “Imitate me”
Now here is an important concept to grasp. We will know that our way of life in Christ Jesus is consistent and we are seriously trying to behave what we believe when we can honestly say to other followers of Jesus, “imitate me”
JD Walt writes one of the devotionals I read, and he describes what Paul calls “his way of life in Christ Jesus” with these words
“It means having a “way of life in Christ Jesus” that is distinctive, surprising, at times quiet and at other times bold, and in the final analysis—irresistible.”
If we lived that kind of way of life, wouldn’t people want to imitate our lives?
I want to aspire to living a consistent Christian way of life so I can invite people to imitate my following of Jesus.
What about you? Is your desire to live a way of life in which people see you behaving what you are believing in a way that they want to emulate?
JD had some challenging questions about all of this at the end of that devotional and I want to end by sharing them with you
1. How would you articulate to yourself your “way of life in Christ Jesus?” What did that look like yesterday? Be specific.
2. What will it mean, in particular, for you to have a “way of life in Christ Jesus” today? Even if only one thing.