The goal of every Christian Family is to cultivate Christlikeness. This is what God has in mind in one of the most beloved promises of the Bible: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). The “good” in view is explained in the next verse: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (v. 29).
All of our efforts at discipleship must keep this goal in mind. We want our families (spouse, children, parents, etc…) to grow in Christlikeness. That cannot be accomplished merely by teaching the principles of Christianity theoretically. Rather, to help one another grow as disciples, we must be willing not only to tell them how but also to show them how.
The Apostle Paul emphasized this “show and tell” approach to discipleship in his own ministry. That is why he says, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). He viewed the spiritual growth of others as important as his own growth as a follower of Jesus. So, he invited other Christians to follow him as he followed Christ.
Be ye followers of me, even as
I also am of Christ
Paul reveals two commitments in this admonition. First and foremost is his commitment to be an imitator of Christ. The whole character of Jesus’ life of obedience to God’s commandments shows us how, as His disciples, we are to live in this world. His call is the same today as it was when He walked the earth: “Follow me.” So, we are to pattern our love for one another after His love for us (John 13:34). We are to cultivate the mentality of a servant because we see that “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). We are to endure unjust suffering with patience, with the knowledge that this is part of our calling, because, as Peter explains, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:” (1 Peter 2:21–23)
And finally, Jesus gave us the example of obedience. He didn’t act according to His own will, rather He always did whatsoever the Father commanded him to do and say: “Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” (John 5:19).
Have you ever invited someone to follow you as you follow Christ?
Paul was also committed to helping other believers do the same. That is why he said, “Be ye followers of me.” It was a part of his discipleship strategy. He wrote to the Philippians, “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Phil. 4:9). He not only verbally instructed believers in the way of Christ, but he also personally modeled Christlikeness as he lived out his faith before them.
So many Christlike characteristics are “caught” rather than “taught.” Paul can and did counsel Christians to “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Phil. 2:3). His words, however, had greater impact when they were joined to his own example of self-sacrificial living (1 Cor. 9:4–15).
Paul not only taught the Ephesian Christians the words of Jesus that “it is more blessed to give than to receive,” but he also showed them how to apply that lesson through his own example of “working hard” in order to “help the weak” (Acts 20:35). He wanted them to join him in cultivating the kind of generosity commended by the life and ministry of Jesus.
The invitation to have someone follow you as you follow Christ can be daunting. After all, no one is perfectly like Christ. Paul never entertained such a thought (see Rom. 7:15–20). What is needed is a sincere faith in Christ—the kind of faith that fuels quick and humble repentance.
The person who is diligent in following the example of Christ will have faith in the Lord and repentance over sin that is evident. He will be committed to becoming more and more like Christ and will be unsatisfied with every shortcoming. Every serious Christian today should be under the discipleship of a Spiritual Father or Spiritual Mother and should seek to follow his or her example.