Monday, February 27, 2012

Set a Good Example

 {2 Timothy 3:10; ESV}
You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness...

One of the fundamental truths of my life is; "how we live our lives reflect what we truly believe." That is why faith is more than what we confess with our lips, but it also involves what we do with our hands.

Abraham, the great example of faith, was credited with righteousness because his belief in God was made real by the way he trusted God with his life. We can say we believe in God, but if that belief isn’t manifested into action then we really don’t have faith. The simple definition of faith I like to share with people is "life influenced by belief."

Faith is about applying what we believe to the way we live. That is why James writes: "For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead" (James 2:26; ESV). Belief is the seed and roots of faith, but our works (the way we live) is the actual plant of faith.

A life which is faithfully following Jesus provides an example for others to follow. The apostle Paul’s life, the way he loved and obeyed God, gave Timothy an example which he could follow. I imagine that Paul was very aware of the reality that he was an example of what it meant to be a follower of Christ Jesus, and he did his best to provide a good example for people to follow.

In the Gospels we discover a group of people who were not interested in providing a good example for people, rather they were interested in making a good impression. The Pharisees were the religious teachers of Jesus’ day. They interpreted Scripture for the people and taught them how it applied to their lives. Yet they missed a key component in their teaching-they didn’t live it out in their lives. People were impressed by their religious piety, but the people were also discouraged because they knew they couldn’t achieve that level of “spiritual” maturity. It was at this point that Jesus confronts the Pharisees.

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:
"The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you—but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger" (Matthew 23:1-4; ESV) 
The underlying theology that the Pharisees taught was not the issue. What was the issue was the fact that the Pharisees kept burdening the people with laws upon laws instead of providing the people with examples of what faithful living actually looked like. Jesus told the crowd that the Pharisees had bad faith, not that they had bad theology. So Jesus urged the crowd to listen to the Pharisees teaching, but discouraged them from following their example.

We need to keep in mind that there are two parts to effective teaching-relating ideas and letting those ideas be seen in your life. When our lives do not reflect the Truth of the Gospel people will wonder whether or not it is really the truth. The best evidence for the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ are the faithful lives lived by His followers. When we live faithful lives we make the teachings of Jesus real and accessible to the people around us. Without our example Jesus’ teachings remain simply a philosophy rather than a way of life.

Having the truth doesn’t do us or anybody else any good if we don’t apply that truth to our lives. The life of faith is the life that is lived based on the truth that we know. Faith happens when we live our lives in the light of what we believe. A life that is lived by faith becomes a life that is an example for others to follow.

Point to Ponder: A life which is faithfully following Jesus provides an example for others to follow.
Questions to Consider: Is my life a true reflection of what I believe? If a person observed the way I live, could they see Jesus’ teachings illustrated in my actions? Who am I an example to?
Prayer to Pray: Father, the Author of life, I ask that You will fill me with the knowledge of Your will and spiritual wisdom and understand so that I am able to live a life that is a shining example of what it means to follow Christ Jesus...

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