I remember so well how often I revered persons as I was growing up and even as an adult, persons whom I wanted to emulate in some area of my life. He or she represented qualities of character or achievements that challenged me. Of course, it gave me no sense of what the Lord wanted to develop in my own life. These were just my own desires of what I thought I should or might want to be or look like.
Later as a mother I began to see how our children were often imitating me or my husband in one way or another. After all, it is one of the ways we all begin to learn – by imitating. Initially it seemed so cute, but then I began to be sobered by how many aspects of my life were not what I wished to have anyone learn from me. Children “catch” so many things from us that we are not teaching them.
As my walk with the Lord grew, I began to pray the Lord would not allow them to “catch” so many things that I knew they had observed. I wanted them to see more of Jesus and less of me, but I was not sure that was happening many times. I knew it wasn’t.
As our family was growing up, I recognized that I sometimes did or said something just like one of my parents. Those who knew our family well said more than a few times, “That is just like your mom (or dad).” Sometimes those were things I loved about them, but other times they were things I had told myself that I never wanted to be, say, or do.
There is no question that it’s good to have role models, but none of them will provide the model we need. There is only One who can provide that.
Paul says it best in Ephesians 5:1-2 (ESV):
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
That was and is the answer and yet within myself I cannot achieve such a perfect example. How grateful I am for the Lord’s grace and mercy in my life as well as the work of the Holy Spirit’s progressive work of sanctification in my life.
Yes, when we receive Jesus into our lives we have a new identity, but that doesn’t mean I suddenly look like Him. Quite the contrary.
Unfortunately, too many outside of the body of Christ can look at us and see how many times we do not represent what they have heard of Him.
Yes, the Holy Spirit needs to accomplish this work, but we also have a responsibility to yield and practice what we learn of Him. His Spirit may indwell us and we may find it easy to express exuberance spontaneously in a worship service, but the real evidence of His Spirit at work in our lives is whether our life on ordinary days in typical and routine activities demonstrates the fruit of the Spirit.
That is when His light is most evident. That is when we glorify Him. That is when we show evidence of the hope that is within us.
The purpose of the gospel is not simply to impart knowledge. It is meant to transform us.
Later in Ephesians 5:15-16 (ESV) Paul points to why that is important:
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
Who is imitating you?
What do they see?