When I was a boy, I liked to impersonate people. And I would get in trouble for it, because I'd do it right on the spot. I would notice the way people would phrase certain things, or their little affectations and gestures, and I'd imitate them. I also tried to impersonate famous people. I'd stand in front of the mirror and try to look and act like them, and do their voices. Several years back somebody gave me a great book, "How to Impersonate Famous People." It teaches you how to imitate people like Elvis and Gandhi, and it describes the right clothes to wear and what to say.
As Christians, we are called upon to impersonate famous people, but not Elvis or Gandhi. We are called upon to impersonate Jesus Christ, and those who have followed God wholeheartedly through their lives. Both the Old and New Testaments give us a pattern of examples, what to follow and what to stay away from. Now, imitating them doesn't mean we are to wear clothes like them or grow a beard, carry a long staff and say, "Verily, verily," or "Thus saith the Lord." It means we copy them for their lifestyle, and their obedience and faithfulness to God. The writer of Hebrews said, "Imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises" (Hebrews 6:12).
Even Paul, the great apostle, said, "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). To the Philippians he wrote, "Pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example" (Philippians 3:17, NLT). That's great! He's saying, "This is what you shoot for, this is where you aim. Follow these examples of faithfulness, love, and obedience."
What does it mean to imitate Jesus Christ? To answer that, look at Philippians 2:1-11. There you'll find a great list, things like being of one mind, esteeming others better than yourself, looking out for the interests of others, being a servant. And most of all, being obedient to God.
Who we pattern ourselves after will affect what kind of influence we'll have in life. And our influence is either positive or negative. It's not neutral. You're leaving an "impression" for others to imitate--your children, your neighbors, your co-workers. Who are you imitating?
"Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma" (Ephesians 5:1-2).
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