BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
“Dear friend, don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God’s children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God” (3 John 11 New Living Translation).
You cannot go through life alone. There are many examples around you that you can copy. There are people who are older than you and are more experienced. There are also those who have done what you may be trying to do or have become what you’re aspiring to become. But be careful the examples you follow. Whatever you behold, you become (2 Corinthians 3:18). You’ll become the example you’ve set before yourself and you’re patterning your life after whether it’s negative or positive. If you want your life to turn out well, imitate Godly examples, not negative, wrong or evil examples.
Follow Godly spiritual leaders
3 John 11 says, “Dear friend, don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God’s children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God” (New Living Translation). Follow only what is good. Anyone who does good belongs to God, but anyone who does evil has never known God.
Paul considered himself a good example Christians should follow. He urged the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 4:16 to imitate him or follow his example. He told them again in 1 Cor 11:1 to imitate him, just as he imitated Christ.
The same thing he told the Philippian Christians, “Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. Their future is eternal destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and all they think about is this life here on earth” (Philippians 3:17-19 New Living Translation).
In this scripture, Paul talked about good examples to emulate and wrong examples to avoid. Following the bad examples would lead one to the same destination with them – eternal destruction. Follow Godly examples, not ungodly examples. Ungodly examples live contrary to the Word of God. Godly examples live in obedience to the Word of God.
Talking about the Thessalonian Christians, Paul said they became his followers and followers of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit (1Thessalonians 1:6). As a result, they became examples to all other Christians in Macedonia and Achaia who believed (verse 7).
Paul said further in 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9, “For you know that you ought to follow our example. We were never lazy when we were with you. We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so that we would not be a burden to any of you. It wasn’t that we didn’t have the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to give you an example to follow” (New Living Translation).
Notice that Paul did not see himself as the only good example that should be emulated by believers for spiritual growth. He also talked about learning from those who followed his example (Philippians 3:17). Hebrews 13:7 says, “Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith” (New Living Translation).
Who are you following?
Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me” (John 10:27-28 New Living Translation). He said again in John 12:26: “Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me” (New Living Translation). The question is: who are you following? Are those you’re following, following Jesus? If they’re not following the example of Jesus, they can’t help you become like Jesus.
Stop following examples that are not patterned after Christ. Disconnect from such persons. “Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts” (2 Timothy 2:22 New Living Translation). Such examples could be in your family, school, neighbourhood, etc. Don’t follow bad examples.
Follow Godly leaders, mentors, friends, etc. Shun ungodly examples, who habitually live in sin or are immoral or unethical. They’ll influence you if you don’t leave them. As much as possible, in every area of your life, choose as examples those who lead a Godly life.
King Josiah refused to follow bad examples
King Josiah of Judah refused to follow the wrong examples of his father and grandfather. Josiah started reigning when he was eight years old and reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. He did what was pleasing in the sight of the LORD and followed the example of his ancestor, David. He did not deviate from doing what was right (2 Chronicles 34:1-2).
However, Josiah’s grandfather was Manasseh, considered to be the most wicked king of Judah before God humbled him (2 Kings 21). Josiah’ father, Amon, followed the footsteps of Manasseh (verses 19-26). Nevertheless, when Josiah ascended the throne, he didn’t follow the bad examples of his father and grandfather. He followed the example of his ancestor, David, who lived and reigned before he was born.
Josiah engaged in religious reforms, returned the people to God and rid the nation of idols. 2 Kings 23:25 says, “Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him” (New King James Version).
Another king before Josiah, who followed after God, was Hezekiah, his great grandfather. 2 Kings 18:5 says of him: “Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was never another king like him in the land of Judah, either before or after his time” (New Living Translation). Whereas Josiah was outstanding in obedience to God’s laws, Hezekiah was outstanding in trusting in God. Just as in Josiah’s case, Hezekiah’s father, Ahaz, was an evil king who gave Judah over to idolatry. However, Hezekiah didn’t follow his bad example.
Jehoram followed a bad example
Unlike Josiah, King Jehoram of Judah followed a bad example during his reign. 2 Chronicles 21:5-7 says, “Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, just as the house of Ahab had done, for he had the daughter of Ahab as a wife; and he did evil in the sight of the LORD. Yet the LORD would not destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that He had made with David, and since He had promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever” (New King James Version).
Verses 12-13 tell us Jehoram’s sins. “Thus says the LORD God of your father David: Because you have not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat your father, or in the ways of Asa king of Judah, but have walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and have made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to play the harlot like the harlotry of the house of Ahab, and also have killed your brothers, those of your father’s household, who were better than yourself” (New King James Version).
The New Living Translation renders verse 12 thus: “You have not followed the good example of your father, Jehoshaphat, or your grandfather King Asa of Judah.” Because of Jehoram’s sins, just as the LORD had said in verses 14-15, Judah was attacked and everything in the palace and Jehoram’s sons and wives were carried away by the Philistines and the Arabs except his youngest son (verses 16-17). Jehoram was afflicted with a severe intestinal disease that got worse each day for two years and at the end, his bowels came out until he died in agony. His people did not hold a great funeral fire to honour him as they had done for his ancestors. Nobody was sorry for him when he died and he wasn’t buried in the royal cemetery (verses 18-20).
No excuse for following bad examples
The Bible says we should follow those who through faith and patience inherit the promises (Hebrews 6:12). Perhaps the examples around you are people like Manasseh and Amon – family members or those closest to you. Bad examples! Don’t imitate them. Don’t use as an excuse to do evil the fact that the only examples around you that you can copy are the bad ones. There is no excuse for following a bad example. Don’t join anyone or the multitude to do evil (Exodus 23:2)
I talked earlier about King Josiah. He didn’t engage in so-called youthful exuberance or follow the evil examples set in his family. He didn’t emulate the evil examples of his grandfather and father. Prior to his reign, the scroll had been neglected and the Word of God abandoned. But Josiah, at 16 years of age, began to seek the God of his ancestor, David (2 Chronicles 34:3).
At 20 years of age, he began to purify Judah and Jerusalem, destroying all pagan shrines, Asherah poles and carved idols and cast images, etc. He took his national and religious reforms to the next level upon the discovery of the scroll in the Temple (verses 3b-7).
The absence of a good role model in your immediate environment or family is not a good reason not to do what pleases the LORD. Pray to God to direct you to or show you a Godly example to emulate. More importantly, you have the Word of God. Josiah didn’t even have a personal copy. The scroll was always kept in the Temple.
Follow Godly examples in the Bible
Other people you see can serve as examples to encourage you to do what is right in the sight of the LORD, but the Word of God is your best example. In the Word of God, you have clear instructions from God and principles on how to live your life. You also have good Bible characters to learn from and emulate. You equally have bad Bible characters to learn from and avoid their errors. For instance, James 5:10 says, “For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord” (New Living Translation).
Hebrews 11 contains the examples of Bible characters who did great things by faith. Verse 39a says all the people mentioned received God’s approval because of their faith. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us” (Heb 12:1 New Living Translation).
The Bible records in 1 Corinthians 10:11 concerning the Israelites: “All these events happened to them as examples for us” (New Living Translation). Remember this: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 New Living Translation).
Conclusion: Jesus is your perfect example. Follow in His steps in terms of love, forgiveness, obedience, doing the will of God, prayer, endurance, humility, and so on. For instance, 1 Peter 2:21 says, “This suffering is all part of what God has called you to. Christ, who suffered for you, is your example. Follow in his steps” (New Living Translation).
So also, Philippians 2:9 says, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (New King James Version).
Samuel lived with Eli, ministering to the LORD before Eli the priest (1 Samuel 2:11). Eli’s sons were corrupt and did not know the LORD (1 Samuel 2:12), but Samuel didn’t follow their example. Samuel ministered before the LORD as a child (verse 18). He grew and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground (1 Samuel 3:19). He became a great prophet in Israel. Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, imitate what is good (3 John 11a).
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible believing and Bible teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The LORD be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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