Follow Leaders Who Follow Jesus
The Early Church was a dangerous place. The radical nature of the gospel granting full forgiveness to penitent sinners ran alongside unpredictable violent persecution. And yet the message of the gospel was genuinely attractive, bringing many new disciples of Jesus Christ as they heard of His saving grace. Those who brought the message were also disciples, but a bit further along the road (1 Thessalonians 1:8). They were the practical role models for the next group of new believers. So, in one sense, they were leaders in the Christian race.
They may have been church leaders, apostles, teaching elders or evangelists: they might have been godly neighbours or work colleagues. What mattered was that they explained God's message of salvation and led others to put their faith in Him. Those who had believed earlier chose to share their faith in Jesus verbally; but their lives were evidence of their faith (Acts 4:31). 'Consider the outcome of their way of life …' may refer to the way they behaved, loving with integrity and risking all for Jesus Christ: or it may be a euphemism for death. In that case it means, see how much Jesus meant to them – they were even willing to die for His sake, even though they were not perfect and their faith may have faltered.
In the same way, Jesus Christ died in obedience to the Father's will (Hebrews 5:8). Unlike human disciples His character was unchanging and remains the same today. In that way, He is the perfect leader of our salvation (Hebrews 2:10). Although we will find faults with even the best of our leaders, there is no failure of character, obedience or commitment in Jesus. What He was, He is and what He is, He will be. Giving that such a perfect leader exists, why do we need imperfect ones? That is all in God's plan: that those who respond to His Word will pass it on to others. The people who know they are sinners can share the Good News of forgiveness through Christ (Acts 26:18).
We will all follow someone. And there are some who will follow us. The question is, are they and we following the Lord Jesus Christ? Some profess to follow Christ but do not bear His message or wear His character. They should not be followed. Others seek to live His life but are afraid to explain what it means: do not follow them. But those who 'walk the walk' and 'talk the talk' will be spiritually fertile and new disciples will be born again. Are you like that? If not, why not? Is either fear or failure blackmailing you into spiritual infertility? Remember those who led you to Christ, and imitate them. Remember Jesus and imitate Him. Follow such leaders and others will soon want to follow you.
© Dr Paul Adams