Wherefore I beseech you, be followers of me.” (1 Corinthians 4:16)
These are Paul’s words to the Corinthians, to believers who seemed to be following whatever teaching was on the breeze. Now, I want to do something that I don’t know if I have the freedom to do. But do it, I will. What if You Jesus are using Paul’s words to tell us that You are beseeching us to be Your followers? What if that was what Paul was trying to do? What if he wasn’t really trying to get people to follow him but to get them to follow You like he was following You?
That seems logical to me because if I drop down four verses I see how Paul is saying that he will come shortly “if the Lord will.” And what was he looking for when he came? Whether or not Your power was in the words and actions of those who were puffing themselves up as teachers. It seems that Paul was saying that there is evidence of following You and it’s not the evidence of our words but the evidence of power.
In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, (1:7) Paul reminds us that “God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” I suppose I ought to understand what power is, then. The Greek word used here is dunamis which means force, specifically miraculous power, ability, might. But if we look at the Hebrew connection it’s more than about “ability, capacity, vigor, strength, and will.” It actually takes more than one Hebrew word to tranlate dunamis. In the Hebrew, it has to do with strength, wealth or an army. It’s the influence one has on others. It can be financial or numerical or military. It’s also about “not lacking, not being deficient or not having poor quality.” It has to do with our going out and our coming in or what causes our going out and our coming in. In the same sense, it has to do with bringing forth vegetation and feelings. That’s not all. Another word for it has to do with ascending, taking away, and offering; and yet another about waging war, mustering for war, serving. And all of these things wrapped up together bring forth the concept of power.
So what is power? Well, part is that Greek mindset. There is an idea of “capacity, strength and will” but it plays out in conjuction with everything else. See, strength is in relation to our influence. It’s more than physical. Someone has influence over another. It’s what was happening with the Corinthians. What was their source of inluence, or rather who? Who is my source of influence? Because the strength of that source will flow to others and they will wind up relying on either my weak influence or the true influence of God.
But it doesn’t stop there. Power was tied to sufficiency. I mean, in those days subsistence was important. If you didn’t lack food, shelter, and the basics, you had power. Without them you were powerless and dead! But the truth for believers is that our sufficiency goes beyond subsistence, or maybe that our subsistence has to be in a Person and not things. We have to come to the point where we truly know that “we are not sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; who also has made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:5,6) The whole point in these verses as that we are enable wholly by You, God. Our power comes from and in You. That word for sufficiency, sufficient, and able in verse six are all related in the same base word hikanoo. We are made able, qualified, or enabled through not the words written in a book, but through the life within those words and from the Person who shared them with us. You are our sufficiency. You make us able. You are our Power.
Now, as if that isn’t enough, power is also tied in to being able to “come and go.” In the days of Paul’s authorship, they knew about slavery and about being a vassal. Slaves and citizens under the rule of another power were limited in movement. To have power is to be “able to move at your own will.” Not only that, it includes the freedom to “express your own feelings.” Think of how many citizens were nailed to crosses and impaled on spikes or burned at the stake because of expressing feelings contrary to the power in charge over the course of history. Think of the many persecuted even today. And with this power we must keep in mind the idea of war or warfare.
Well, those last concepts seem to make sense. But what of this additional concept of power- to ascend, to take away? The word for this is a verb and it’s about “sacrifices and offering.” It’s about the power “to remove guilt.” Did you ever think of the importance of this power, this power of sacrifice? Maybe now is a good time to think about it, because God certainly thought about it in the power of Jesus Christ, and Jesus thought about it and demonstrated it.
So sure, many of us have lots of power. We live lives where we are sufficient, where we have political freedom, where we have influence over others, and we are able to express our feelings freely, for the most part. But we also have the “ability to have our guilt removed through sacrifice.” I mean, how equipped is that?
But do I really realize what all this power bestowed on me means? What did Jesus use His power for? He used it for the benefit of those He came to seek and save. He used all this power to find the lost and to save them and to make them His own. How do I use the power that You give me as a believer, that power that comes from the life of the Spirit in me, that power that flows from the heart of God in Jesus Christ? Am I only focussed on myself or am I, like Jesus, focussed on the lost and the hurting and the lonely and the broken? Is my power for myself or is it a gift and a privilege, and a duty to share it with those who have not yet experienced it? Is this power something that multiplies when it is shared or something to be horded?
Yes, I don’t think Paul wanted us or his people to follow him. But I think that Paul wanted his people and us to learn from him that the only and true source of power lies in following Jesus. Without knowing Him, without surrendering to His authority, without being adopted into His family and born of His Spirit, there is no power and we are but mere men. Paul reminds us in Romans 8:37 that God’s purpose for us is to overwhelmingly conquer. Why? Because He is the Overwhelming Conqueror and the battle is His and it’s already a victory. We just have to hold onto the ball until the end of the game. And He’s passed the ball to us. We’ve been made ready and equipped by the One who is the Source of Power.
Who I follow is important. My life and my victory and the life and victory of those around me depend upon this choice. It was important to You too, Jesus. You commanded, “Follow me,” in over fifteen instances in Scripture as You walked this earth. If a thing You repeat is important, than certainly understanding what it is to follow You is of major importance to me. “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” It only comes from following, from attaching, from being dependent upon, and from being enabled by You. “Follow Me and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” “If anyone whold come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” “If any man serve Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve Me, him will my Father honour.” “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to you? Follow Me.” “Follow Me.” “Follow Me.” “Follow Me.”
You know, sometimes as “baby” believers we need to follow someone else as our example, someone else we can see and feel and touch. But with maturity comes greater responsibility. There has to come a day when we stop needing to follow Paul and we experience You Jesus for ourselves. There has to come a day when we know You so well that we follow You, that we listen to You, that we know Your heart. There must come a day when You are my heart’s desire and joy. You have to be the focus of my emulation. There has to come a day when I see that all this stuff that has to do with the power I need is right there and has always been right there in You. And if I’m still following some other believer’s method or style, I need to fall on my knees and just start relying on You and accepting all that You have for me and stop disabling what You desire to enable in me. You didn’t create anyone else but Paul to be a Paul. You desired for Timothy to be his own Timothy in You. You designed for Bong to be her own Bong in You. You designed for Jessica and Gemma and Betty and Sharon and Carla and Mickie to be who You created them each to be, specifically different by design. You designed Jack and Warren and Mike and Eric and Carl and Genesis to be who You created them each to be, specifically different by design. But my question is, am I living in Your design for me or my own design? What a shame it would be to be invited and have the ability to follow the King of the Universe, to follow the Jesus who saved me and the God who made me, and to not choose to follow Him intimately. Oh, that I, that we, would learn to follow You all the days of our lives!