Follow Me As I Follow Christ

1 Corinthians 11:1 AMP  Pattern yourselves after me [follow my example], as I imitate and follow Christ (the Messiah).

Paul spoke this sentence to the believers in Corinth.  Paul – the one who has been portrayed by many teachers and preachers through the years as proud and arrogant.  Paul – the one who has been made out to be a chauvinist.  Paul – who went after Christians in every way he could, even going so far as having them killed, attempting to stop the spread of the gospel prior to his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus.  This same Paul has the audacity to say to believers to pattern themselves after him as he imitates and follows Christ.  How dare he say that?!  Would a humble Christian say that?!

Paul’s confidence appears to many to be self-confidence.  His boldness to declare in Acts 20:26, “I am innocent of the blood of all men,” looks like an outright lie to those who know his past.  That’s what stops most of us from telling others that we are innocent, or to follow us and imitate our example as we follow Christ.  We know the wrongs of our past, and we know others know them, too.  We would never consider ourselves good enough, pure enough, or righteous enough, so the last thing we’d want is for others to imitate us.  But is that what we are to consider?

Paul was not deceived, in denial, or suffering amnesia.  He practiced what he taught, and he taught what the Lord taught him – that we are to leave the past behind (even the positive) and press on toward the mark (Phil. 3:13-14).  He understood that when Jesus forgave His sins, they were no longer to be his focus, as they were truly washed away by His blood.  He needed but to go forward in the Lord, seeking to know Him more and to make Him known (Phil. 3:10) – not continually re-examining past sins, or receiving the judgments of others who wanted to do so.

When Paul called others to imitate him, there was no pride or self-confidence at all.  There was complete confidence in Who Jesus Christ is, knowing the power of the Holy Spirit alive in him, enabling him to follow Christ and lead others in the same way.  He knew the authority and the righteousness of Christ in him, and that God called him righteous because of Christ.  His focus was not on his sin, but on the completeness of Christ in him, Who is so much greater than all sin.  Jesus called Paul to follow Him and become His disciple, so he chose to do likewise.

As believers, we can have this same confidence in Christ – this same boldness to call others to follow our example.  It comes from focusing on our risen Savior, not on our old, fallen nature.  It also comes from believing the Word.  We have a new nature.  We are God’s righteousness, risen with Christ, seated with Him in heavenly realms.  It is not based on our feelings, but on His Word and what He has done.  He did it for Paul.  He’s done it for us.  Making disciples means giving them an example to follow.  So, like Paul, we can choose to say, “Follow me, as I follow Christ.”

Counting the Cost

We have to count the cost of so many things in our day-to-day lives.  Purchase anything from a cup of coffee to a new vehicle.  Before making the transaction, you determine if you have the money, or if you will be able to make the monthly payments.  If you don’t, you don’t make the purchase.  Maybe you have been given a job offer.  If the pay is higher than your current income, but the job would require a move, you might take a piece of paper and make a list of the pros and cons for this offer.  When you total the numbers for each, you make your decision based on whichever is greater.  Is that what Jesus told us to do?

Luke 14:28 “For which of you, wishing to build a farm building, does not first sit down and calculate the cost [to see] whether he has sufficient means to finish it?”

Before we answer the question, let’s apply this concept in a different way.  When the Lord gives you a new assignment, are you to treat it in the same manner as described for the job offer to decide whether to accept or reject His assignment?  God – the omniscient and Holy One – doesn’t present us with a new assignment for our approval or disapproval based on our reasoning.  We need to remember that His best for us is always to do His will, which includes all His assignments.  God does want us to count the cost, but for a very different reason.

Luke 14:26-30 “26 If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his [own] father and mother [in the sense of indifference to or relative disregard for them in comparison with his attitude toward God] and [likewise] his wife and children and brothers and sisters — [yes] and even his own life also — he cannot be My disciple.  27 Whoever does not persevere and carry his own cross and come after (follow) Me cannot be My disciple.  28 For which of you, wishing to build a farm building, does not first sit down and calculate the cost [to see] whether he has sufficient means to finish it?  29 Otherwise, when he has laid the foundation and is unable to complete [the building], all who see it will begin to mock and jeer at him, 30 Saying, This man began to build and was not able (worth enough) to finish.”  AMP

Let’s consider this in light of Paul’s life.  He was warned about many dangers and perils – shipwrecks, venomous snake bites, beatings, stonings, etc. – awaiting him in every city to which the Lord was sending him.  It wasn’t so he could decide whether to accept the call, but so he would be prepared for the difficulties – not surprised and thrown off track by them.  Had he not had any idea ahead of time, Paul probably would have begun to question (doubt) whether he had really heard God (“I must have missed God”), and would have left the course marked out for him as soon as the troubles began.  Because he knew much of what faced him, and in the all-sufficiency of God’s grace, he remained strong in the Lord, regardless of the fiery darts that came his way.

You might never face anything like Paul did, but it is of utmost importance to count the cost for matters both big and small.  You might have to turn your back on a loved one for the sake of the gospel, or face negative comments because you refuse to watch a TV show or movie that doesn’t help transform you – rather, it causes you to be conformed to the world.  There are also major life changes, like giving up some of your independence to care for a loved one who can no longer live independently in safety.  Whatever it is, when you determine it is the Lord’s will for you, count the cost, then draw on God’s grace.  In that place you will be able to remain strong in the Lord, no matter the difficulties you will encounter on His path for you.