We are NOT called to follow a person’s ministry, because God gives each of His children a unique ministry that others cannot have. Christ’s Body has members with different functions just like our human body has. When Jesus called people to follow Him, He did not expect them to do miracles or even preach as He did. That was His ministry. He called people to follow the example of His life – that is, to live by the principles by which He lived. Likewise, when Paul called believers to imitate him and follow him as he followed Christ, he was not asking them to be apostles or to heal the sick, but to live as he lived – by the principles by which Christ lived.
It is the Holy Spirit Who has commanded us in the above verses to follow the examples of godly men. Those who are too proud to follow the examples of godly men usually end up following carnal men, or the promptings of their own Self-life. Then the results can be disastrous.
Immediately after telling the Philippians Christian to follow his own example and the example of other godly men (Phil.3:17), Paul warned them not to follow the example of some others: “For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ (Phil. 3:18,19).
If however they followed Paul’s example, they would be saved from being deceived by those other ungodly men.
Here are seven tests by which you can evaluate whether a man is a truly godly man worthy of being followed:
1. Is he a humble man – easily approachable and easy to speak to? Jesus told us to learn humility from Him (Matt.11:29). A godly man is one who has learned humility from Jesus.
2. Is he free from the love of money and one who never asks anyone for money (as far as you know)? A godly man will follow Jesus’ example, Who never asked anyone for money even for His ministry. Jesus said that one who loves God cannot love money and that one who holds on to God will despise money (Luke 16:13).
3. Is he pure in his life – and especially in his dealings with women (as far as you know)? A godly man will not just avoid the temptation to sexual lust but will flee from it (2 Tim.2:20-22).
4. If he is married and has children, has he brought up his children in godly ways? A godly, married man will be one whose children are believers who have been brought up in a disciplined way (1 Tim.3:4,5; Tit.1:6).
5. Have his closest co-workers become godly men through their association with him? Godly men will produce other godly men. Timothy became a godly man through being with his spiritual father, Paul (Phil.2:19-22).
6. Has he built (or been active with others in building) a local new-covenant church? Jesus came to earth to build His church (Matt.16:18). He gave Himself up to death to build the church (Eph.5:25). Godly men will not only bring people to Christ but will then build them up as a local church.
7. Does he connect you to Christ and not to himself? A godly man will connect you to Christ, so that you in turn, can become a godly example for others? (Eph.4:15; 2 Cor.4:5).
We cannot follow most Christian leaders, because they fail in one or more of the above areas.
If however, you find a godly leader who has the above qualities, it will be good for you to follow him as a spiritual father, because he will help you to come closer to the Lord and thus be saved from sin and false teaching.
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