Thursday, December 11, 2008

the best picture you have to give

“Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” – Phil 4:9

Paul’s statement is amazing. To our modern, western sensibilities, it may seem a tad arrogant. Yet, this is the word Paul leaves the Philippians with. “You want to know what following Jesus is all about? Look at me! Look at my life, my example. What you’ve seen in me is the best picture I have to give.” Who among us could dare say such a thing?

And yet, Paul says it. And not just to the Philippians. He tells the Corinthians: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). I think it’s fair to assume Paul said something along these lines to all the churches that he visited. And yet, who among us could dare say such a thing? Who among us would dare point others to ourselves?

My hope is that all of us can. It doesn’t mean we’re perfect. Paul, at times, seemed rude and hot-tempered. It doesn’t mean that we’re without weaknesses. Paul, like us, had his own “thorn in the flesh” to deal with (2 Cor 12:7). It doesn’t mean we’re fearless (1 Cor 2:3) or tearless (Rom 9:2).

And yet, Paul pointed others to himself in order to point them to Jesus. In essence, Paul viewed his life as a sign – as a pointer – to the death and resurrection of Jesus. “I died to the law. I have been crucified with Christ” (Gal 2:19). I “have been raised with Christ” too (Col 3:1). Want to see what the Jesus-life is all about? Look at me.

Is Paul being arrogant? No, he isn’t. He’s not claiming to be without sin. He’s not claiming to be perfect. Paul is claiming, however, to be on a journey with the One who is without sin; on a journey with the One who is perfect. “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13-14).

FOR THE WEEKEND: Consider the following question. Would you feel comfortable pointing others to yourself in order to show them Christ? Why or why not? If the answer is no, take some tangible steps to make your own life the best picture you have to give.

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