Follow My Example – Philippians 3:17

We’ll be looking in a moment at Philippians 3:17, but I’d like to look first for a moment at 1 John 2:6.

He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

If you are a believer this morning and you have trusted Christ as your Savior, then you should be walking just as Jesus walked. Our goal as believers should be to be more like Christ each and every day. That is the challenge that is before each of us who names the name of Christ. We should be pursuing the goal of becoming more Christ-like. When we read and study God’s Word it should be with the goal of knowing Christ better and becoming more like Him in everything that we do. It isn’t enough just to know about Him. We need to be striving to be like Him.

As we’ve been studying the book of Philippians we have seen clearly the passion that Paul had to be like Christ. In our study this morning we’ll see an example that models for us the kind of walk we need to have as followers of Christ. Look with me at Philippians 3:17.

Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.

Paul begins in verse 17 by encouraging the Philippian believers to join in following his example. When Paul encourages others to follow his example he is not saying that his is a perfect example. We saw in our study last week that Paul freely admitted that he wasn’t perfect. He made it clear that he hadn’t arrived. Only Jesus Christ lived a sinless and perfect life. One thing that is clear about Paul’s life is that he was striving to be more like Christ. He had a heart for Christ. His passion and focus was Jesus Christ and his desire to be more Christ like is the example that we need to follow.

Paul also encourages them to note others “who so walk.” There were others setting the right kind of example like Paul. Paul says, “you have us for a pattern.” It’s helpful to have Godly examples to follow. We all need to be more like Christ and as we strive to be more like Him, it’s helpful to follow the examples of others who are sinful human beings like we are. We know we can never match the sinless perfection that Jesus modeled for us even though we are striving to be more like Him. It’s helpful to see in the lives of others how their focus is on Christ and how they are living lives to please Him.

Paul is not bragging about himself when he says follow my example. He is not being arrogant and doesn’t have any illusions about what a great guy he is. He understands that he is imperfect and as such he is a good example for other imperfect people to follow. Paul knew he was a sinner. Paul knew he wasn’t perfect. Look at what he says about himself in 1 Timothy 1:15.

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

Paul was a sinner just like we are and he lived in a sinful world and was faced with many challenges and difficulties, yet his desire to be like Christ was clear. He lived a life that we can use as an example. He backed up what he taught with the way he lived his life.

Note something with me – let’s look for a moment at James 3:1.

My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.

This is a sobering verse for me and for others who teach the Word. Teaching God’s Word is a wonderful privilege but it is also a heavy responsibility. We can’t just teach it. We also have to live it. As a teacher of God’s Word it is not only necessary to study and prepare to preach a sermon but we must also be prepared to live that sermon.

It’s like the lady whose daughter was making noise in church. As the pastor preached, her mother leaned over and shushed her.

“Shh, I want to her the sermon.” Later that week the lady and her daughter were in town and saw the preacher. As they exchanged greetings and walked away the mother said to her daughter, “Do you know who that was?” "Sure," she said. "That was the Sermon."

There’s some truth in that young girl’s words. If we are teaching God’s Word to others we had better back up what we say with the way we live. It is extremely important to handle God’s Word accurately. This is especially clear in 2 Timothy 2:15. Listen to it from the NASB.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.

We need to handle God’s Word accurately. Sadly there are many who do not handle it accurately. There are those who distort and twist the clear teaching of the Bible. There are those who accommodate the Word to fit our present age. We need to be clear and careful and accurate in our teaching of God’s Word. As a church we need to be very careful about how we handle God’s Word. We better make sure that those who are teaching God’s Word to us are handling it accurately.

Instead of changing God’s Word to suit us and our notions of how things should be we need to make sure that we have a clear understanding of God’s Word and that we are living our lives to conform to the teaching of Scripture.

Paul’s teaching was right but he didn’t stop there. He wasn’t one of those who said, “do as I say, not as I do.” His teaching was right and he lived a life that backed up what he said. He set the kind of example for us that we can be comfortable in following. O how we need men and women like Paul today who not only handle the Word of God accurately but can also say, “join in following my example.”

Andrew Murray said…

God has no more precious gift to a church or an age than a man who lives as an embodiment of His will, and inspires those around him with the faith of what grace can do. 1

Paul was that kind of man. We are blessed to have his example to follow in God’s Word. It is helpful to have examples like Paul’s that we can follow. We can read about him in the Bible and see that he faced challenges and difficulties just like we do in life and see how he handled it. We can see how human flesh and blood lived a Christ-like life. There are others in the Bible that also encourage us by their Godly example. Joseph lived a life that is a good example for us. Daniel is another good example for us.

How do we learn best? We learn best by example. Reading about something is great and very helpful but it’s also helpful to actually see it in action. It is helpful to have a good example to follow.

I know in my own life it has been a great help to see the example of others. When I was an assistant pastor, I had the privilege of working with a Godly man who was committed to being Christ-like. It was a great opportunity to learn from his example and see how he handled the various aspects of ministry. I have read lots of good books on ministry but they just don’t have the power of watching someone else minister. Not a day goes by in ministry that I am not influenced by what I learned from Pastor Brad Brandt. I thank God for him and others like him.

Many of us who are parents have probably at one time or another observed behaviors in our children that they have learned by following our example. We don’t always realize how much they are watching us and learning from our example. Sometimes they learn good things and sometimes they learn things we wish they wouldn’t have learned from us.

Paul encouraged the Philippian believers to join in following his example. We see similar words written to the Corinthian Church.

Listen to 1 Corinthians 11:1.

Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.

Imitate me just as I imitate Christ. That is the heart of what Paul is saying. He was following after Christ and we can learn from his example what it means to follow after Christ ourselves.

In 1 Corinthians, there is a great passage by Paul that shows us how he laid aside many of his rights to serve others. Who does that remind you of? Isn’t that what Jesus did for us when He came to this earth and died on the cross for us? Think about the passage we studied previously in Philippians 2:5-8.

5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

If we were to look at 1 Corinthians 9 we would see how Paul laid aside many of his rights to be a servant. He did it to preach the gospel. He did it so others would be won to Christ. He was following the example of his master, the Lord Jesus Christ who came to earth to serve, not be served. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost and we can see Paul following the example of Christ. He was faithful in sharing the gospel so that others would be saved as he was. Paul followed the example of Christ and we need to follow his example as he followed Christ.

Paul also encouraged Timothy to be an example. Listen to 1 Timothy 4:12.

Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

He told Timothy to be a good example. Timothy needed to rightly divide the Word of truth and he also needed to live a life that would be a good example to others. Good examples are important. If we were to turn to 1 Timothy 3 we would see the list of qualifications for those who lead the church. When we choose those who will lead us we need to notice their example. Are their lives examples that reflect Christ-likeness? Are they setting good examples that others can confidently follow who want to be like Christ?

I was reading something that pointed out the differences between a boss and a leader. One statement that seems fitting with our message this morning is “A boss knows how; a leader shows how.” Paul knew how to be like Christ but even better, he lived a life that showed others how to be like Christ.

Notice back in our passage in Philippians 3:17 that Paul doesn’t only say follow me. He also says, note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. The word note here means, look at, observe, contemplate, to mark, to fix one’s eyes upon, direct one’s attention to, to look to, to take heed to thyself. Pay attention to other examples of Christ like lives.

We need Godly examples that we can watch and observe and learn from so that we too can learn to be more Christ like in our lives.

Listen to Paul’s words in Titus 2:7.

In all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility,

Paul encouraged Titus to be a pattern or an example of good works. Example is so important!

Our young people are bombarded with some very poor examples in popular culture. There are athletes and other celebrities that are living lives that we really don’t want our young people to imitate. What they need is to look for Godly examples that they can safely follow.

Paul’s words that encouraged the Philippian believers to follow his example and the examples of others who were following after Christ and to use them as a pattern for their own lives are words that are meant for us as well.

I wonder if we are looking for Godly examples to follow? If we are followers of Christ, it is helpful to look for Godly examples to follow. If I want to be a more Christ-like husband should I watch more Dr. Phil or look for a Godly man who is living as a Christ-like husband? If I want to be more like Christ to my children should I run out and buy the latest parenting book or look to some Godly examples who have raised children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?

If you are a younger woman who is struggling in your marriage wouldn’t it be nice to have an older Godly woman to learn from to help you love your husband better and be more like Christ in the way you treat him? If you are struggling in your job with your boss, wouldn’t it be helpful to learn from an older Godly man who has modeled Christ-likeness on the job?

We are here as the body of Christ to encourage each other. We need to help those who are younger and not as mature in their walk with the Lord by being a good example to them. If we are younger in our walk with the Lord we need to be willing to learn from those who are following Christ and have learned to be like Him and are striving to be more and more like Him in all that they do.

We are so blessed to have the Word of God as believers and to be able to learn from the example of those who loved the Lord and lived faithful lives like Paul.

Another way we can be encouraged is to read biographies of great Christians and learn how they learned to become more like Christ through all of earth’s struggles and trials.

We can also look for people living today who are following Christ and are setting a good example for us to follow.

Stephen Freed shared this conversation he had with his daughter.

"Elizabeth, what will you do if I end up like Granddaddy someday?"

Watching my father slowly deteriorate from an incurable disease has been a painful process–one that has raised many such difficult questions in my mind. When I posed this particular question to my 15-year-old daughter, her response gave me even more to think about.

"I don't know, Dad," she answered after a moment. "But I'm watching you to find out." 2

Living the Christian life and striving to be more like Christ isn’t always easy. We may stumble and falter and not be quite sure how we should be living. A Godly example can be a tremendous help to us.

I wonder–do you have some Godly examples in your life that you look to? Is it your desire like Paul’s to follow Christ? Do you pattern your lives after others who faithfully follow Christ?

Paul wasn’t perfect and even the most Godly examples we have to follow here will not be perfect. We shouldn’t mimic everything someone else does but we can learn from the examples of those who are following Christ and displaying Christ-likeness in their lives. We do need to take care to find Godly examples to follow. There are bad examples out there that we need to avoid. We’ll be taking a closer look at that next week.

We should also be challenged this morning by Paul’s ability to say, “join in following my example.” Would you be comfortable in someone following your example? Is your example one that would encourage others to be more Christ-like? That is our goal as believers in Jesus Christ. We should be striving to be more and more like Jesus Christ. That was definitely Paul’s goal. We need Godly leaders in our churches who are good examples of Christ like living for us. We need Godly Sunday school teachers who are not just teaching the Word but modeling it for their students. We need Godly parents who are faithful in instructing their children in righteousness and are faithfully living Christ like lives before their children. We need grandparents who are Christ like examples to their grandchildren.

How about you? Is your life a life that others could follow and be more like Christ? Pattern your life after others who are patterning their life after Christ. Strive to be more like Christ in all that you do so that your life becomes a pattern that others who want to be more like Christ can follow.


Kevin A. Pierpont
1/23/05

1. Andrew Murray, Leadership, Vol. 7, no. 4.

2. Stephen E. Freed, Christian Reader, Vol. 35, no. 2.