Following Those Who Follow Christ: Part 1

2 Timothy 3
10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Being a leader is a character quality that is admired in our society. We admire good leaders to the point that we want to be like them. We may encourage our children to be leaders among their peers. We may, as adults or older teens, read books on leadership hoping to gain some insights, hoping that we can somehow make those traits a part of our lives. Leadership is a big deal. We need leaders. And you know, we are all called to be leaders in certain ways. Men are to be leaders in the home. Mothers should lead their children well. Even peer to peer of the young and the old, there are always times when we are to step up with truth when others may be unwilling to do so.

But here is the truth: the very best of Christian leaders, the solid Christian leaders that we admire the most, these are the best followers. As Christians we are called to lead at times and in various ways, but our primary calling is to be an intense follower. In fact, our ability to lead well will be determined not by the books we read or the natural skills we possess, but our ability to lead as Christians will be based on our commitment to follow well. Want to be a leader? Learn how to follow.

Now, when I say we must learn how to follow well, you understand I am ultimately talking about following Jesus Christ. We are called to follow Him. If we are trying to lead and not intent on following Jesus then we have missed our calling and have failed before we begin.

When Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee and he called out to Peter and Andrew saying, “Follow me,” He meant more than just follow me today. He was saying, “Follow me in this life, for the rest of your life. Come along, see what I do, hear what I say, observe, learn, embrace truth.” He was saying, “Follow me and be changed, changed forever from fishermen to fishers of men, from earthy goals to heavenly ones, do as I do.”

Our call is the same. We are to be followers of Jesus. He lived to please the Father; so should we. He sacrificed Himself for others; so should we. He walked through trials for the glory of God; so should we. He lived in peace with the Father, with joy; so should we. Too many today claim to be Christians but have no real desire to follow the One by whose name they are called. Christianity is not a name, it is a way of life empowered by the Holy Spirit of God. We cannot lead well until we have learned to follow Jesus.

Now, though we know that our path is to follow Jesus, God has been gracious to give us men and women, mere men and women, who are actively demonstrating Christianity in life. No one is doing this perfectly. But it is true that we can see aspects of godly obedience in other people and this can be, we should see these moments as encouraging moments, as examples for us.

In the first century AD, Paul was a good example of one who was following Jesus. Not even Paul did this perfectly, but he was still a good example. Paul was bold to say to Timothy, “You…have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings.” As long as Paul was following Jesus, then others could follow Paul’s example, right? As long as Paul is living his life in Christ, with Christ, living for Christ, then yes, let others follow his example.

2 Timothy 3
10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct,

The “You, however” is Paul contrasting Timothy with false teachers. The false teachers of which this book speaks so much of, they were not sincere followers of Christ nor of Paul’s example. We have talked about them from chapter 3, they were: “lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” And then the contrast: “You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct,” etc.

Timothy was on a much different course than were the false teachers. God had put Paul in Timothy’s life and Timothy had followed Paul for decades now. Timothy was blessed, tremendously blessed to have a man in his life that so represented Christ in both easy and very difficult situations. Timothy had an example, and though not perfectly, he followed Paul’s example.

We are often times influenced to a much larger degree than what we may think by those we hang around with. Think about the people who are closest to you in life and think about what you do; you say things, determine what you like because of their influence.

People influence us, that is for sure, so can you imagine hanging out with Paul for a couple of decades? Are we hanging out with those who will influence us for good? Are we living as those who will influence others for good?

Now remember, we are not talking about just blindly following people – that is dangerous. I can give many examples of those who have begun following people because of something they really liked about them, and that following culminated in a turning from the faith. Maybe someone was exciting, had new, fresh ideas, maybe that someone was rich or influential. Something about that person was just attractive and so others began to follow them, and that following was not godly, was not good, and led to darker things.

What we are talking about here is following someone because of their walk of obedience to the Lord, because of their love for Christ, not for some other lesser reason. And even then to follow with discernment realizing that no one is the standard, but God’s Word is the standard, so even being ready to break off that following if need be out of a love for Christ. Be careful who you are listening to, who you are hearing, who you are drawn to.

As for Timothy, it was Paul’s godly attributes that captured him and attracted him to Paul. What were they?

“You, however, have followed my teaching.” This is the word for instruction or doctrine. Timothy followed the divinely inspired apostolic teaching of Paul. This was not just any teaching. Because Paul was an apostle of Jesus Christ, his teaching was from God, divinely inspired. This was sound doctrine. In fact, we have much of this teaching even now in our hands as a part of the New Testament. Though we are followers of Christ first of all, there is a sense in which we are following Paul and his divinely inspired writings. Paul loved truth.

It was not only Paul’s teaching that Timothy followed, but also his conduct. As Paul lived out truth he became an example to follow in his conduct. Paul lived what he preached. It is a powerful combination, that is to hear a man preach truth and see him live it. And Timothy had a front row seat into Paul’s life. This can be an exciting thing for us to consider and a very convicting one. I’ll bet most of us know a lot of truth from God’s Word. We read it, we come to church and hear it, we talk about it with others, we have been blessed to have so many resources available to us, but how are we doing living it.

I’ll tell you, this is a tough one for me. I speak a lot of words as a preacher and teacher of God’s Word, and yet I know of all the many ways in which I stumble in living it, and if you are close to me you see that too. Wouldn’t it be something to live out exactly what we teach and believe?

But even when we fail, when we sin and stumble, we can be a good example in what we do next. Do we do the next thing well? When we sin do we confess, repent, seek forgiveness, trust God, and move on? Paul was honest about his weakness and he let those weaknesses drive him to Christ, drive him to the cross, drive him to trust God more, not less. And that then also became an example to follow.

I say this to say, don’t think, “Oh I have blown it, I can no longer speak from God’s Word.” No, confess, repent, seek forgiveness from others, trust God, follow Christ, and in that even, in that be a witness by your actions. We won’t be perfect, but we can grow in godliness.

2 Timothy 3
10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life,

Timothy has followed Paul’s aim in life. What was Paul’s aim in life? To show single-minded commitment to Christ. That was it. Paul says this in many ways.

Galatians 2
20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Paul talks over and over again about this stepping aside personally so that Christ is seen as primary in his life. “It is not my life,” Paul says. “It is Christ’s life.” Paul urged others in this way.

1 Corinthians 10
31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

2 Corinthians 5
9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.

Colossians 3
3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

This idea of so belonging to another, belonging to Christ, is illustrated further in Paul’s life just by the way he talks about his circumstances. It is like following Christ was so primary for him that his circumstances were sort of irrelevant. We see this as he is in prison. He treats that circumstance as okay. Okay if Christ is being exalted in it. He is excited about being in prison if Christ is exalted because of it.

Philippians 1
12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

In the last phrase of verse 18 he reiterates by his attitude of joy, as he has done so many times already, that everything is about Christ!

Paul’s aim was clear and Timothy was well aware of Paul’s aim, and even followed after Paul’s aim of glorifying Jesus in all things.

Sometimes for me, life can get so complicated, so confusing. My thoughts can sometimes be scattered. There is so much to do, so much that does not get done, so many people to see, to enjoy. There are even many unknowns in life. What will tomorrow bring? Can we depend on the world going on as we have come to expect? Will the economy hold up? Will our country remain deeply divided politically? Will my family be healthy? Will jobs continue? And how long will I live anyway? Making decisions sometimes seems hard because we don’t know the future. There are so many complexities with which we must navigate to simply walk through life. It is easy to get bogged down, to even freeze up. The question is often, “Okay, so what do I do now?”

When I get wound up over all these things, I have to come back to this thought. Yes life is complicated, but really, there is only one thing I am required to do. Only one thing. That is good for me because I am a one thing kind of person. I can usually focus on one thing. And here it is – and this is true for you too: I am here, you are here, to glorify God. That is the one thing. That simply means, to do what He says to do with a willing and joyful heart. Just live for Him no matter what.

We too have been crucified with Christ, this life is now His. We are to glorify Him, to live for His honor.

So in that hard conversation, live for Him. In that impossible decision, do what is honoring to Him. With your time, live for Him. With your money, do what will honor Him. Know His Word and live it out in all things.

Sometimes for me this helps to cut through all the junk and all of the hundreds of unknown contingencies, and just do what is pleasing to Christ.

Timothy knew of Paul’s aim and he followed that as well.

Do you want to be a leader, a good leader? Start by being a good follower. A true, focused follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. In doing this, you may find others who are following well. If so, observe them, know them, and as long as they are following well, then follow them.

2 Timothy 3
10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life