by Sam Stinson
"Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us" (Philippians 3:17, ESV).
Experience is not authority. Because Jesus is our authority, his word is authority. However, how do we, those of us who deliver God's message of salvation in Jesus, direct people from us to God and his word? The experience we give the world in us helps direct them. Jesus illustrated the influence of his disciples as salt and light. (Matthew 5:13-14) Our personal examples lead people to God and his word. An example is a pattern that others follow or do not follow. If the example we give is good, we may help lead willing hearts to God. Paul, above, invited the Philippian brethren to imitate his example and to note those who followed that leadership. Again, that's what examples do: they lead. What example should we give the world?
Our example should show us to be conservative.
Let us each give the sincere example of those who seek to conserve, that is, to preserve the pure gospel. Paul stood his ground against false teachers so that "the truth of the gospel might be preserved" for the Galatian brethren. (Galatians 2:5) Let us stand our ground against those who falsely take liberties with God's word, twisting it to their own desires or wresting them to their own fall. Let us speak the word and not our opinions as though they were God's precepts.
Our example should show us to be moderate.
Paul taught the Philippians to "Let your reasonableness be known to everyone." And for what reason? Because "The Lord is at hand." (Philippians 4:5) Let us not bounce between doctrinal extremes, tossed around by every wave of doctrine but stand in maturity. (Ephesians 4:14) Let us daily practice moderation in our choices.
Our example should show us to be liberal.
Yes, you read that right. Please accept that I'm not advocating a political view but suggesting only what the Holy Spirit thought fit to exhort Christ's disciples. Regarding the collection for needy saints, Paul exhorted the Corinthians, "Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men." (II Corinthians 9:13, KJV) These showed their liberality in generous hearts by gifts they gave to those who were in want. Let us also be prepared, ready in generosity, ready to share, ready to give to those who have genuine needs. The poor are with us always: especially in this cycle of the economy! Let us desire to minister to their needs knowing they may someday aid others too. Let us each consider the needs of those outside Christ and how we might do good to them.
Have we not been excellent examples of this? Then let us repent. And when we have turned again, let us strengthen our brethren.