How to Imitate Christ

[1] Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. – [1Cr 11:1 NASB]

[1] Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; – [Eph 5:1 NASB]

There is a famous book called “The Imitation of Christ”. Many people have tried to imitate Christ and they have found it impossible. Sure, you might be able to do good for days, months, or even years, but eventually you will fail. Why is it impossible? He lived a perfect life. How can we possibly imitate someone who lived a perfect life?

The problem is that we view the life of Jesus of Nazareth through a religious lens. We try to imitate His actions, instead of learning how He did the things that He did. The life in Christ is altogether anti-religious. If you attempt to combine Christ with religion, your religion will be torn apart. There is no power in religious acts, but there is power in living by the indwelling Christ.

Paul said to imitate him as he imitated Christ. Then in Ephesians, he wrote to imitate God. If Paul was imitating Christ, then to imitate Paul would mean to imitate Christ. So, lets look at what it means to imitate Christ.

[19] Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. – [Jhn 5:19 NASB]

[30] “I and the Father are one.” – [Jhn 10:30 NASB]

Jesus of Nazareth lived by the life of the Father.

[20] “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. – [Gal 2:20 NASB]

In Galatians, we see that Paul really did live by the life of Christ.

[56] “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. [57] “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. – [Jhn 6:56-57 NASB]

What the Father was to Jesus, so the risen Christ has become to us. By eating and drinking Christ we are receiving His Life into our being and He is saturating us with Himself. This is what it means to imitate Christ: To live by Life of the God who indwells us.

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Posted on September 20, 2011, in Exhortation, Jesus Outside the Four Gospels, Teaching, Thoughts and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. Brother,

    There is a serious logical flaw in your reasoning. Just because we can not imitate Christ, for as you said it is impossible, doesn’t mean that we should not imitate Christ.

    If we follow that reasoning then neither can we love God with all our mind, heart, and strength, love our neighbor as ourselves, be perfect, glorify God in all that we do, hope all things, endure all things, believe all things, etc… they are all impossible.

    But we don’t stop doing all of those things. Neither should we stop imitating Paul who imitated Christ in more ways than the one that you cited.

    Of course, and without a doubt when we morph imitation into religious duty, then we miss the point. We do stay in motion, keep pressing onward and upward to the high calling in Christ. By his strength and grace, yes, but pushing forward none the less.

    • Thank you for your comment, Miguel. I did not say that we are not to imitate Christ. I was challenging what it means to imitate Christ. Christ lived by His Father. In the same way, we now live by Christ. This is imitating Christ. The imitation of His outward actions are worthless in and of themselves, but if we are living by His Life, they will naturally flow.

    • Miguel… amen brother. This person that wrote this, regardless of Peter’s intentions, has a tonality that discourages anyone from going after hard to imitate Christ. Jesus’ teachings fundamentally teach us that we are to fulfill the intention from Genesis 1:26 “Let’s make man in our image.” By us obeying what Jesus taught and commanded, Jesus said only those that do this, Love Him in John 14:15, 21, 23 and He continued off into John 15 saying that He is the vine and those that do this are the branches, and to remain in Him, we must continue to obey Him. If not, His Father will cut us off the vine. In the interim, in John 15, Jesus said so that we will bear even more fruit, the Father will discipline us with pruning us. He explains that the fruit we will bear if we obey Him is love… and Galatians 5:21 -23 makes it clear what the spectrum of that Love fully looks like… for those not willing to see the obvious… so that we are without excuse. Whatever we practice, we will over time become good at. By changing our bad habits, the apostles letters teach, we put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and increasingly become like Him. James said what good is it to have faith and not deeds. James said do not just read the Word, but do what it says.. the one who does not is like a man who sees himself in the mirror and as he walks away, immediately forgets what he looks like… and James’ letter echoes many of the teachings of Christ.

      THERE IS POWER IN THE PRACTICE OF JESUS’ TEACHINGS. It will change you… through the struggle. Peter said in 1 Peter much about suffering and how that is par for the course of a Christian’s life… and in 1 Peter 4, he says that “He that has suffered is DONE with sin.” Romans 8:16 says “If we share in Christ’s sufferings, then we will share in His glory.” We want Christianity to be easy… by design, it is not. This struggle can change us if we are submissive sheep rather than rebellious goats (Matthew 25).

      • Your are correct. I do discourage anyone from going after hard to imitate Christ. It’s not about trying harder, but about denying your soul-life and resting in your spirit. There is a struggle and we do suffer, yet because we enjoy Christ as our Rest, we find that His yoke is easy.

  2. focus of the followers of Jesus is not to do or say the right thing but to live by the Right Life.

  3. It is CHRIST that impowers us to imitate christ.like the relegious leaders in CHRIST time.They had it all together outwardly.Inwardly they lacked the faith it took to allow them to truely Imitate The life of faith CHRIST had.

  4. Robin, are familiar with the religious leaders in the time of Christ? They were the Pharisees, Sadducees and Teachers of the Law of Moses.

    Are you sure of that? The Pharisees were NOT compassionate, they were greedy and FULL of selfishness. They were a mess according to Jesus. Here are just a few insights…

    WHAT WAS THE KEY SOLUTION? TAKING THE EUCHARIST COMMUNION? NO, BEING GENEROUS TO THE POOR TO EXTINGUISH THE FIRE OF SELFISHNESS AND GREED.

    Luke 11:39 Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But now as for what is inside you, BE GENEROUS to THE POOR, and everything will be clean for you.

    Matthew 23:24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

    25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are FULL OF GREED and SELF-INDULGENCE (SELFISHNESS). 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

    27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you HYPOCRITES! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

    ***what is a hypocrite? it is someone who professes something, but then their life does not match up to what they say.

  5. Anders Lewendal

    Help me out here. Paul said he imitates Jesus and Paul certainly was not perfect. Should we not try to imitate Jesus as well? How do we get the leavening out of our lives if we do not repent and stop sinning? The question really is: what did Jesus call sin? We need to have faith and desire to imitate Jesus.

    • It’s not about imitating outwardly(by your flesh), but imitating inwardly(by your spirit). The Life of God is within you, and everything that you do must have Him as it’s source.

      • Anders Lewendal

        Thanks. I think we might agree that Paul walk inwardly in the spirit. Should we desire to walk or obey God’s commandments as Paul did?

        • We can’t obey God’s commandments by our flesh (natural strength). We can only obey with our spirit, where Christ is our Strength.

          • I agree. Because of our faith in Jesus we seek to obey Him and walk in His ways. I trust we agree that Paul obeyed in spirit. That is why Paul sought to imitate Jesus’ walk. Should we do the same? Or should we disobey God’s commandments and just say we obeyed in spirit? I think that is what the Pharisee’s did.

  6. Would be interesting to test the bible’s presentation of the Scribes and Pharisees against the huge body of material we know about them. Like the disciples themselves, the gospels seem to use them as foils confronted by the teaching of Jesus. The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis focusses very much on imitation Jesus’ interior ways, and suggests withdrawal from the world. Jesus did at times withdraw with his disciples, or escape into the darkness to meditate and pray. However, Jesus also maintained a public life in the world in which he contended with Jewish religious beliefs and culture for the salt of raw goodness and the light of clear insight – his harsh commentary reverberates with all human religious belief and cultural mores.

    I like the idea that when we try to drive our religious life inward from the outside that we will fail. That is exactly what got Adam and Eve in trouble, the rebellion of wanting to do things their own way. At its truest, the imitation of Christ comes in our surrender to his Holy Spirit – just as Jesus himself submitted to the same Holy Spirit in his earthly life. Hebrews 10:8-10

    • I agree. I’ll give you a couple of examples and see if we agree: Both Paul and Jesus would ask us to live in the spirit and resist any thought of cheating on our wives. Outwardly, we should never fail our wives by cheating with another woman. That is an easy one.

      Inwardly we desire and look forward to joining Jesus at His feast at His Sabbath rest. Outwardly, both Paul and Jesus observed the Sabbath as God commanded. Should we also seek out His rest on the Sabbath? If Jesus comes on the Sabbath to join with us in marriage and we are not there but show up the next day, are we still good and faithful servants?

      Is real imitation both inward and outward? Should we DO His commandments?

      • Although Jesus was faithful to Torah, he was not slavishly faithful. Remember him saying, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)

        I am sure Saul observed a Saturday Sabbath, but no idea whether or not Paul did. I think Jesus summed up that law on a cruel cross on Golgotha.

        We observe a more ancient law, one that expresses God’s requirements, that is written on human hearts (but without the many demands of Torah, or the viewpoint and science of the Ancient Near East.

        Hebrews 4: 7b to 11:
        “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.”

        Salvation does not depend on keeping the right Sabbath, or on the Torah, but on the deeper intentions of Torah. and on the Sabbath of an alive faith – the salvation that comes from surrendering to Jesus as Lord of our lives.

        Got to get back to my sermon for Sunday.

        • John: I agree, salvation depends on faith. We obey because of our faith. I think all Christians can agree on that.

          Soon after Acts 15 Paul tells us that he must go to Jerusalem to observe the Pentecost. As far as I can tell, Paul observes the Sabbath. If I missed it, can you tell me where Paul fails to observe the Sabbath?

          We agree that Jesus observed and fulfilled the Torah. Never does Jesus tell us that observing the Torah is a slavish effort. I think Jesus tells us that the Torah is not burdensome. Jesus told the pharisees to quit observing the commandments of men, not the Torah.

          If Jesus, Paul and the Apostles all observed the Sabbath and Paul asks us to imitate him just as he imitates Jesus, why would we not also find rest in His Sabbath? Seems like an easy thing to do. Granted, we can never fully imitate Jesus, but we can at least try. The opposite of imitating Jesus is observing our sinful nature. I think we should chose to imitate Him.

          I think you are right, Jesus said the Sabbath was made for man. He did not say the Sabbath was made for Jews. It is our Sabbath rest. Let’s find peace and joy in it.

          • Way too busy to reply today, and the Sabbath debate a long way down my “most important list.”

            Preaching on Matthew 5:13-20.

            So how does your righteousness exceed that of the Sadducees and Pharisees?

            • No problem. I am never too busy to seek out His Ways and walk in them as best as I can. Unfortunately, I fail too often.

              It depends on which Pharisee you are talking about. Although Paul, a Pharisee of Pharisees, is far more righteous than I am, I make no claim of being righteous. I will leave that to Jesus. When He comes, I hope (pray) I am worthy and a good and faithful servant.

              Blessings and good luck with Your Mathew sermon. Encourage them to pay attention to those jots and tittles.

              • Thanks! Jots and tittles – the copyist’s nightmare!

                • Jots and tittles. Are you sure God is talking about pen strokes? Maybe He is talking about the finer bits of leavening left in our lives. As Paul told us: first stop the idol worship and then go to the synagogues and learn the rest. I think learning the finer points of what love thy neighbor as yourself means comes to mind..

                  Have a good Sabbath.

  7. Which is the most important?
    Jesus was asked twice, by two different men, the same basic question about which is the most important or greatest commandment in the Law. Here is how Jesus answered that question:

    #1
    “One of the teachers of the law… asked him [Jesus],
    ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’

    “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “ is this: ‘Hear, of Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than THESE.” [Mark 12:28-31, Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Leviticus 19:18]

    #2
    …an expert in the law, tested him [Jesus] with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’”

    Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these TWO commandments.” [Matthew 22:36-40, Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18]

    But in contrast with Jesus, Paul the Pharisee didn’t know the greatest, most important, first commandment according to Jesus. Paul made up his own rule. Paul wrote:
    “The entire law is summed up in a SINGLE command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” [Galatians 5:14, Leviticus 19:18]

    And again, Paul wrote:
    “He who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not covet, and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this ONE RULE: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” [Romans 13:8-10, Leviticus 19:18]

    Jesus said it’s TWO commandments, with the greatest, most important, first command to
    .1) first, love God with everything you’ve got, and
    .2) second, love people.
    Paul said no, it ONE commandment- to love people.

    This is very similar to The Beatles- “All you need is love. Love is all you need. Love, Love, Love.” (In other words, the second commandment, the love of man, without the love of God. Love as me, myself and I define love to be, and continuously redefined by sinful men.)

    In essence, it is also the same principle as what Eve did in the Garden of Eden, forgetting about the Tree of Life, which is the first tree in the middle of the Garden, and instead referring to the second tree as “the tree that is in the middle of the garden.” [Genesis 3:3 & 2:9 2:17, 3:24]

    Kind of like the Pharisees with Jesus, who were pushing the false idea that we can consider ONE commandment in the Law, alone in isolation, to be “the greatest commandment in the Law.”

    Or like today, false teachers in the Chrislam – Purpose Driven – Seeker Sensitive – Emergent – Liberal – Ecumenical – New Age – world church movement pushing the false idea that the ONE RULE is “Loving God and Neighbor together.”

    The Lord God Jesus the Jewish Messiah, Son of Yahweh the Most High God of Israel, said:
    “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these TWO commandments.”
    Not one. TWO.

    Sometimes, Paul was wrong. Jesus is always right. I’m following Jesus.

    Here are answers to 2 common objections:
    .a) What about the so-called “Golden Rule”?
    Jesus spoke the 3 chapters of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7, including 7:12. Jesus didn’t make PART of this one verse out of context into “The Golden Rule” or “one rule.” Jesus did not use the term “Golden Rule,” it’s simply a tradition of men. The sentence begins with “So” in the NIV and Amplified Bibles, and “Therefore’ in the NASB and King James Bibles, which ties 7:12 to the previous sentences. So 7:12 cannot stand alone as One Commandment.

    .b) What about the so-called “Great Commission”?
    Jesus spoke the words recorded in Matthew 28:18-20, including “make disciples of all nations.” Jesus never used the term “Great Commission,” it’s simply a tradition of men. Yes I agree it’s a commandment given by Jesus, it’s not optional, and it applies to us today. We need to carry this out, with our own God-given abilities and talents, using the skills, and circumstances we have. But we don’t need to put words in the mouth of Jesus, we can let Jesus speak for himself, and we can listen to Him – and obey Him.

    Evangelism is part of the Second Commandment given by Jesus, to Love people. Evangelism is not the most important commandment, and it isn’t the entire Second Commandment. So if our priorities are “The Great Commission and the Great Commandment,” we have our priorities upside down and confused, and we are not listening to the voice of Jesus. Never mind what Paul said. Let’s listen to the voice of Jesus first, and get our priorities straight.

    The people who will protest most loudly against this truth are the modern “Pauls:” traveling evangelists, speakers, writers, abusive absentee mega-church pastors, Crusaders, and self-appointed “apostles” like Paul, who find it “profitable” to “be like Paul” rather than follow Jesus the Jewish Messiah.

    • Matthew: I think you agreed that imitating Christ is to love thy neighbor. Paul and Jesus define love as you quoted in Romans: Do not commit adultery, murder, idol worship, etc. In other words, walk in the Torah as Jesus and Paul did. We can certainly try.

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