Imitation is the greatest form of flattery and can also have a very lasting effect. Some of the greatest actors of all time will quickly attest to the fact that emulating the character traits of another over a period of time can actually transform ones mindset from what it was to that of the one being imitated.
This is a perfect demonstration of the sovereign wisdom in God’s Word because in it we are told to imitate Him. “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us.” (Eph.5:1)
How is it possible for us as finite beings to possibly imitate the infinite sovereign Lord of the universe? The character of Christ is unparalleled by anyone ever known in human history. Still, the apostle Paul said that we are to put on Christ like putting on a garment.
People of ancient times had an incorrect view of God’s true character which Jesus made obvious during His ministry. Through Jesus we have learned that God wants us to love all people, including our enemies. In the first century this was absolutely unheard of. They had always prayed for their own nation and the destruction of their enemies. Jesus quickly corrected them.
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.” (Matt.5:44)
In this we see that one of the character traits of God is profound kindness and mercy. Multitudes of people down through the centuries have spurned God yet he causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on the unrighteous as well as the righteous. Moreover, He promises a reward to all who imitate His mercy.
“…your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the highest; for He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful as your Father also is merciful.” (Lk.6:35-36)
The word Christian actually means little Christ which was first given to those whose ambition was to be like Jesus. But they had quite an advantage in that many of them had actually been in the very presence of the Lord when He walked among them.
Still, we know a lot about Christ from the writings of the apostles and most of what we understand about God came from Jesus Who came from God and is God. (John 1:1)
One of the fundamental truths of Scripture is that it is inspired by the Holy Spirit and has the power to change lives. No one can come to understand the true character of God without some basic knowledge of the Word, both Old and New Testament.
God’s mercy towards Israel in the Old Testament reflects His incredible capacity to love. Despite their constant disobedience He forgave them time and time again. In the New Testament, Jesus wept over Israel when they failed to recognize the time of their visitation. Disappointment wasn’t what the Lord felt as He knew they would reject Him. He loved them. Even though He knew it would happen His tears demonstrated the pain in His heart.
Nevertheless, Jesus new it had to happen that way in order to bring us into the kingdom. Their rejection of the Messiah was a tremendous benefit to us for now we are receiving favor and love from God. This is a divine act of kindness towards us who were once estranged from Him and dead in our trespasses and sins. But now through Christ we can be adopted into the family of God.
Many of us get bogged down in the Old Testament with all the genealogies and some are turned off by the violence and bloody battles that Israel faced. However, anyone familiar with Eastern literature understands that much of the Old Testament is widely misunderstood. Basically, the Old Testament foreshadows the New Testament. It is filled with types and figures which point to the coming Messiah.
The character of God seems so much different in the Old Testament but a careful study will reveal that this is not true. His unfailing Love for Israel was proved over and over which demonstrates His extraordinary longsuffering and tender mercy towards those He loves. This divine love has fallen on us now through Jesus Christ the Messiah, if we will receive it.
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John 1:12)
Those who want to receive Jesus need only to ask Him in prayer then verbally confess Him as Lord. Every Christian’s desire is to be like Christ and the apostle Paul said that in order for us to be like Christ we must imitate Him.
Imitating Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean to copy everything He did. We should reflect more on His attitude and the way in which He viewed the world. One of the most prominent characteristics of Jesus was His common sense approach to life and His priorities.
The religious leaders in Jesus’ day were very zealous Sabbath keepers. However, when Jesus healed on the Sabbath it infuriated them. Jesus reminded them that they wouldn’t hesitate to pull their oxen out of a ditch or perform circumcision if it fell on the Sabbath, yet how much more important is a suffering man or woman?
While it’s true that Jesus was kind, patient and tenderhearted, He also demonstrated great anger such as the incident where He overturned the tables of the money changers in the temple. But Jesus didn’t just storm in like a madman. The Bible said that He made a rope of cords. It takes a while to fashion a rope of cords which implies that He took the time to think about it.
As we study the ways and mind of Christ we begin to develop the same mindset. Our priorities and attitudes start to change. Eventually we begin to see things differently than we did before. Things that we once thought were unimportant suddenly become significant and things we once valued become less important. In most cases we don’t even notice these changes until someone points it out or we look back on our lives.
God is not some alien being hovering over the world just waiting for us to make a mistake. Remember, He created us in His own image. When Jesus rose from the dead he filled the whole universe and when we accept Him, He clothes us in His righteousness. Paul said it’s a mystery of God.
We have an awesome God who loves us dearly, but we will never fully understand His ways as long as we are in these earthly bodies. Likely as not, those who belong to Him will spend eternity learning about Him. Those who don’t belong to God will be eternally separated from Him. In the spiritual realm it’s called outer darkness and according to the Bible, being separated from God is the worst kind of punishment. None of us will fully understand this until the day when we stand before Him and fully realize the magnificence of His presence.
Men of God in the Bible such as Daniel and John have testified about being in the presence of an angel and how the glory of their presence was so overwhelming that they fell on their face to worship them. If the presence of an angel has such a staggering effect on a person, imagine the effects of being in the presence of Almighty God!
Studying God’s Word can give us a better understanding of our fallen condition and therefore a clearer picture of God’s divine mercy and patience. When we are kind, loving and tenderhearted we are imitating our Creator and when we imitate God we show our love for Him which never goes unnoticed. “If any man love God, the same is known of him.” (1Cor.8:3)
The character of God can be summed up in one thing- love. God is love, and those who love are of God. (1John 4:7) This is what Jesus meant when he said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart… This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
In conclusion, love is widely believed to be the key to true happiness which is the ultimate goal of all life. If this is indeed true then God must be the key to happiness because God is Love and therefore HE should be the goal of all life.
Fear of the Lord