I believe one of the failings of growing to be like Jesus is a codependency on church culture of discipleship in America. Actually, I find even inherent in our approach to preaching.
There is this idea that my faith has to look like that person’s faith that’s up there speaking. I need to pray like he does. I need to know the Bible like he knows the Bible. I need to worship like she worships. I need to serve like he serves. I need to tell others about Jesus like she does.
I used to get caught up in this in my younger days of preaching. I would hear this one preacher who could exegete the culture so effectively and think I need to be like him. Then I would hear another preacher who so carefully taught the word of God and think I need to preach like him. Then came the invention of podcasting and I’ve listened to dozens of preachers throughout the years as a result and the temptation is to think I need to be like one of them.
There is nothing wrong with learning from others. In fact that is a wonderful and beneficial activity. What’s dangerous is when we begin to believe that our walk with Jesus has to look like their walk with Jesus.
Paul said courageously to the Philippian believers to follow Christ as I follow Christ. Was Paul saying that he wanted the people to be like him? No! Paul was saying do you see how I strive for Christ, to live out my calling in Christ, to dedicate my life for Christ? I want you to follow me with the same passion and urgency as I follow Christ. So says Paul.
But your passion will not be Paul’s passion. Your calling will not be Paul’s calling. (Whew on that one, right? Have you looked at the roller coaster ride Paul was on after he started following Jesus? People either hated him or love him.) Your walk does not look like Paul’s walk. My walk does not look like your walk. But the passion, the urgency, the longing, to be like Christ in our life right now is the same.
When you decide to follow Christ 100% (I know you wanted me to say 110%, but really, who can do that?), you make hundreds of tiny decisions each day. If you are solving someone else’s problem, if you are trying to do someone else’s calling or service in the Kingdom, then your faith is just stabbing in the dark. The light of Christ just becomes this random strobe light that gives you a headache after a while. When you pursue Christ as Paul pursued Christ, in your calling, in your uniqueness, when you offer your talents, then the light comes on. You know exactly how to shine your light in the darkness. The randomness of your Christian life begins to fade.
You need to scratch your own itch. Don’t make your faith like someone else’s, make it your own. Make it real. Make it firsthand.
Look at all the different ministries in the book of Acts and how different they were. Lydia provided a home, Timothy was a companion, Paul was a trailblazer, James was a leader, Priscilla and Aquila supported Paul’s ministry, and the list goes on. Each one was different and lived out their faith wholly. These people scratched their own itch and exposed Christ living in their hearts, souls, and minds. That’s how you should follow Christ too. Just like Paul did.
Best of all, this “scratch your own itch” approach helps you fall in love and become more devoted to Jesus. You know the value of the high calling Jesus has given YOU. There is no substitute for that. After all, Lord willing, you will be seeking to follow Jesus for years to come. So your walk better be what Jesus has called you to do, not what someone else is doing.