“Try to Be Like Him”
“In a word, as God’s dear children, try to be like him.”—Eph. 5:1, New English Bible.
1. (a) How can the natural tendency to imitate others influence a person? (b) Of whom does the Bible encourage us especially to be imitators?
EVERYBODY, some time or other, tries to imitate someone. Children try to imitate their parents or, very often, other children with whom they play. If they try to imitate good qualities, it is to their advantage. If they imitate that which is bad, it is to their own hurt. Interestingly, we are invited to “become imitators of God, as beloved children.” (Eph. 5:1) Can we really be imitators of God? Let us see if there is even a possibility.
2. According to Genesis 1:26, 27, how was the first man made, and what would that mean for all his offspring?
2 Well, in the beginning, about 6,000 years ago, when God created man, the Bible tells us: “God went on to say: ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.’ . . . And God proceeded to create the man in his image, in God’s image he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen. 1:26, 27) The first book of the Bible, Genesis, then goes on to say: “God blessed them and God said to them: ‘Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it.’” (Gen. 1:28) By now there have been billions of individuals, all the offspring of Adam and Eve, that should have had the image and likeness of God, their Father. And God was their Father. That can be proved by reading what Luke wrote at Lu chapter 3, verse 38, of his Gospel account, which refers to “Adam, son of God.” So Adam was God’s son, and we all come from Adam. When he was created he had God’s qualities, his fine attributes of wisdom, justice, love and power. Adam was a perfect man.—Deut. 32:4.
3. Why is it that humans today do not perfectly reflect God’s qualities?
3 But things have changed since then. Why? Because Adam disobeyed God, and while some men manifest to some extent the fine qualities originally included in the perfect man, it is sin that predominates. The apostle Paul expressed it very well in Romans 5:12: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” So “death ruled as king” from Adam down to the present time. What a shame! (Rom. 5:14) Is that the end of it all? No! God’s Word, the Holy Bible, holds out hope for us, saying: “Just as in Adam all are dying, so also in the Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:22) How was that arranged?
JESUS CHRIST, “THE IMAGE OF THE INVISIBLE GOD”
4. By what arrangement has it become possible for descendants of Adam to gain everlasting life?
4 Remember this: After Adam’s fall Jehovah God was still very much interested in mankind, and he purposed to have human creatures fill this earth. However, God’s justice had to be satisfied, and so he provided a redeemer, or ransomer, for Adam’s offspring. The Scriptures inform us: “God loved the world [of mankind] so much that he gave his only-begotten Son [as a ransom], in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) What love! The Son of God made his appearance as a perfect human creature by birth through the virgin Mary. He was really the ‘second Adam’ or second perfect man on earth. (1 Cor. 15:45) He poured out his life and purchased the whole human family. Jesus Christ proved himself to be the ransomer for mankind, as it is stated: “The Son of man came . . . to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matt. 20:28) Christians understand that there is “one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all.”—1 Tim. 2:5, 6.
5. (a) What similarity was there between the first man, Adam, and Jesus Christ? (b) If we are to be like God, whose example must we follow?
5 We can say of this ‘second Adam,’ Jesus Christ, that he, too, was like his Father in heaven. (Heb. 1:3) “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” (Col. 1:15) Christians are invited to walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing him. (Col. 1:10) So those who want to be like Jehovah God would be looking to Christ Jesus as their example so as to be walking in his footsteps.
6. (a) What quality of Jesus enabled him to conform fully to his Father’s will? (b) When we study the things that Jesus said and did, with whom else are we becoming better acquainted, and why?
6 While Jesus was made in the image of his Father in heaven, he never sought to be equal with God, for we read: “Christ Jesus, . . . although he was existing in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God. No, but he emptied himself and took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men. More than that, when he found himself in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake.” (Phil. 2:5-8) So we see that Jesus Christ himself, fashioned as a perfect man, became obedient to everything that Jehovah God said he should do. Those who want to “become imitators of God” must walk according to the way Jesus walked, for Jesus said: “He that does not love me does not observe my words; and the word that you are hearing is not mine, but belongs to the Father who sent me.” (John 14:24) Jesus was so much like his Father Jehovah God, so much in harmony with His righteous ways and life, that when he spoke, the listener would not be hearing something that Jesus was thinking up of his own imagination. Why? Because the Bible says: “The Son cannot do a single thing of his own initiative, but only what he beholds the Father doing. For whatever things that One does, these things the Son also does in like manner. For the Father has affection for the Son and shows him all the things he himself does, and he will show him works greater than these.”—John 5:19, 20.
7. Where do we find the record of the fine example that Jesus set for us?
7 Today we have in the Bible the record of this marvelous example of Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God. For thirty-three and a half years as a human creature here upon the earth he proved himself to be like his Father in heaven. He certainly set a perfect example of one who was made in the image of God. Even though he was a human he truly was the Son of God, the ‘second Adam,’ who takes away the sin of the world.—John 1:29.
8. The realization of what hope depends on our putting forth earnest effort to be like God?
8 Christians today are admonished to put forth an extraordinary effort to be like Jehovah God, and there is no reason for a Christian to give up in trying. If a Christian today entertains earthly hopes and expects to live eternally after the thousand-year Messianic reign of Christ Jesus has ended, he will certainly have to reflect the image and likeness of God by then. Why? Well, because, when Christ Jesus turns everything over to the Father, truly everyone then alive on earth will be a son of God through Christ—as Jehovah said, “in our image, according to our likeness.” Jehovah’s purpose will have been carried out for the first human pair to “be fruitful and become many and fill the earth.”—Gen. 1:26-28; Rom. 8:20, 21.
CAN SINFUL HUMANS BE LIKE GOD?
9. (a) Does our being born in sin make it impossible for us to ‘try to be like God’? (b) By showing what quality in particular can we give evidence that we are trying?
9 True, in the present system of things the natural inclination of man is bent toward doing wrong. That is because he is born in sin and shaped in iniquity. But, still, God’s Word, in Ephesians chapter five, beginning with Eph 5 verse one, reads, according to The New English Bible: “In a word, as God’s dear children, try to be like him, and live in love as Christ loved you, and gave himself up on your behalf as an offering and sacrifice whose fragrance is pleasing to God.” We know that Jehovah God sent his Son into the world, and his sacrifice on the torture stake paid the price or ransom. But Jesus did something more. He gave us a perfect example to follow! He was a man of integrity, so we should be like him in our love. Christ certainly loved us or he would never have died upon the torture stake—a terrible death—in order to provide the ransom sacrifice. This way of life, this example that Jesus set, was something very delightful and pleasing to Jehovah. Even before Jesus paid the ransom price with his blood, John the Baptist said of Jesus Christ: “See, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!”—John 1:29.
10. (a) What Bible example shows that even an imperfect human can be “blameless and upright” before God? (b) What challenge concerning Job did Satan make?
10 If we walk in the way of life that Christ Jesus walked, then certainly we, too, are trying to be like Jehovah God, his Father and our Father in heaven. It is very easy for one to say, “But I am imperfect, and I cannot do as Jesus did.” But, remember, please, there was an imperfect man on the earth who walked in integrity and proved to be pleasing to God to the very end of his life. That was long before the time Jesus lived on earth. The man’s name was Job. The Bible book of Job tells us that this man lived in the land of Uz, and that he was “a man of blameless and upright life.” (Job 1:1, NE) Job was truly a believer in God and he set his face against wrongdoing. He had seven sons and three daughters and was very prosperous. He had tremendous herds of sheep and cattle and camels and proved to be a very important man in the East. While Job was enjoying all this prosperity and blessing from Jehovah God, the Bible account tells us: “It came to be the day when the sons of the true God entered to take their station before Jehovah, and even Satan proceeded to enter right among them. Then Jehovah said to Satan: ‘Where do you come from?’ At that Satan answered Jehovah and said: ‘From roving about in the earth and from walking about in it.’ And Jehovah went on to say to Satan: ‘Have you set your heart upon my servant Job, that there is no one like him in the earth, a man blameless and upright, fearing God and turning aside from bad?’ At that Satan answered Jehovah and said: ‘Is it for nothing that Job has feared God? Have not you yourself put up a hedge about him and about his house and about everything that he has all around? The work of his hands you have blessed, and his livestock itself has spread abroad in the earth. But, for a change, thrust out your hand, please, and touch everything he has and see whether he will not curse you to your very face.’ Accordingly Jehovah said to Satan: ‘Look! Everything that he has is in your hand. Only against him himself do not thrust out your hand!’ So Satan went out away from the person of Jehovah.”—Job 1:6-12.
11, 12. (a) Under what experiences did Job prove faithful to God? (b) How was he rewarded for trying to be like God?
11 From that moment on, Satan did just about everything that he could to break the integrity and blamelessness of Jehovah’s servant Job, but Job did not succumb even to the harsh and cruel treatment of Satan. Having his children killed, losing all his wealth, and, later, having so-called wise men visit him to tell him how wrong he was did not deter him from his faithful course. To those so-called friends, Job answered: “I have heard many things like these. All of you are troublesome comforters!” (Job 16:2) In fact, things became so miserable that Job exclaimed to God, “The graveyard is for me.” (Job 17:1) But Job did not die. He kept on faithful and blameless before God, even in the midst of all his opposers. Finally, according to the Bible account, “the LORD blessed the end of Job’s life more than the beginning; and he had fourteen thousand head of small cattle and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen and as many she-asses. He had seven sons and three daughters; and he named his eldest daughter Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-happuch. There were no women in all the world so beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance with their brothers. Thereafter Job lived another hundred and forty years, he saw his sons and his grandsons to four generations, and died at a very great age.”—Job 42:12-17, NE.
12 As we read through the entire life of Job and see how he faced up to all his problems, certainly we can say, as God did, that he was a man of blameless and upright life who feared God and set his face against wrongdoing. Job tried to be like God. He was rewarded for his integrity, and he will receive further reward in due time. James wrote of him: “You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome Jehovah gave, that Jehovah is very tender in affection and merciful.”—Jas. 5:11.
13. Still, how might a person react to these examples?
13 One might say: “It was easy for Christ Jesus, a perfect man, to maintain integrity and walk blamelessly before his God. And maybe there was a Job, an imperfect man, who did much the same. But how can we do it today?” Even in the days of the apostle Paul, how could it be done? Well, Paul did admonish the Ephesian congregation: “As God’s dear children, try to be like him, and live in love as Christ loved you.” (Eph. 5:1, 2, NE) Was Paul asking those Christians to do the impossible? Not at all!
BECOMING “OBEDIENT CHILDREN,” NOT REBELS
14. To be an imitator of God, what things must a person hate?
14 The psalmist put it very well. He said: “You lovers of Jehovah, hate what is bad.” (Ps. 97:10) If we should hate that which is bad, then we should know what bad is and do the opposite. Do good! Paul helps us out with counsel as to what is bad. Writing in his letter to the Ephesians he continued, saying: “Fornication and indecency of any kind, or ruthless greed, must not be so much as mentioned among you, as befits the people of God. No coarse, stupid, or flippant talk; these things are out of place; you should rather be thanking God. For be very sure of this: no one given to fornication or indecency, or the greed which makes an idol of gain, has any share in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” (Eph. 5:3-5, NE) We see from this, then, that a Christian must be morally decent. His speech must be correct when talking to other persons. He cannot be a greedy person. He will deal honestly with individuals around him. Putting it briefly, he would hate what is bad if he truly loves Jehovah God. And so if one wants to be like God one certainly would not do the things just mentioned by Paul.
15. (a) Against whom does Paul say that God’s judgment is coming? (b) How do they show themselves to be rebels?
15 What happens to those who indulge in the things that Paul mentions—fornication, flippant talk and greed? He says: “Let no one deceive you with shallow arguments; it is for all these things that God’s dreadful judgement is coming upon his rebel subjects. Have no part or lot with them.” (Eph. 5:6, 7, NE) God is very definite. A dreadful judgment is going to come upon those who are rebels against him. Adam was a rebel. He did not listen to God even though he was given the attributes of wisdom, justice, love and power, and had everything provided for him in the way of fine living conditions. Still, he wanted to decide for himself what was good and what was bad. However, those decisions are Jehovah’s prerogatives. He is the Creator of the universe and Creator of all living things, and he wants all living intelligent creatures to be like him; he invites us, even though imperfect, to be so. God loves mankind and is interested in them. Are we interested in Jehovah God? If we are not interested and we refuse his way and want to go our own way and make all our own decisions, contrary to God’s counsel, then we can expect the ‘dreadful judgment that is coming upon his rebel subjects.’ The strong admonition by Paul to the Christian congregation is for Christians to have no part with these “rebel subjects”—those who are going contrary to God’s way.
16. What attitude regarding fornication must be shunned by those who want God’s favor?
16 We know what fornication is, but today religious people make bold statements that there is nothing wrong with premarital relations, nothing wrong with homosexuality. But does not the Bible say that the marriage bed should not be defiled and that men who lie with men are abominable before God and will receive God’s judgment? It surely does. (Heb. 13:4; Rom. 1:27, 32) So if an individual claims to be a Christian and is trying to be like God in living the course of life that Jesus Christ set for us, then he ought to see to it that he puts forth an extraordinary effort to live as a Christian, so as to have God’s favor and rich blessing.—1 Cor. 6:18; 1 Thess. 4:3, 8.
17. When discussing the changes that Christians must make in their lives, what kind of persons did Peter urge them to be?
17 When a person becomes a Christian he has to make big changes in his life. The apostle Peter wrote a letter to the early Christians and expressed it in this way: “As obedient children, quit being fashioned according to the desires you formerly had in your ignorance, but, in accord with the Holy One who called you, do you also become holy yourselves in all your conduct, because it is written: ‘You must be holy, because I am holy.’” (1 Pet. 1:14-16) Interestingly, Peter here addresses the congregation of God as “obedient children.” If they are going to be obedient to God’s Word they certainly are going to quit being fashioned according to their own desires and they certainly will not walk in the way they formerly walked. But they will try to be like God and walk in the footsteps of Christ Jesus.
BENEFITING FROM GOD’S LOVE
18. In showing love, what must we do to prove ourselves ‘sons of our Father in heaven’?
18 When Jesus was here upon the earth he made this statement to his hearers: “You heard that it was said, ‘You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ However, I say to you: Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you; that you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens, since he makes his sun rise upon wicked people and good and makes it rain upon righteous people and unrighteous. For if you love those loving you, what reward do you have?” (Matt. 5:43-46) If you are going to “prove yourselves sons of your Father” as Christ Jesus did, then not only will you have to love your neighbor but you will also have to show love to your enemies. Do you?
19. As stated at Ephesians 3:18, 19, what must all God’s people grasp?
19 We find in the Lord’s Word, at 1 John 4:11, these words: “Beloved ones, if this is how God loved us, then we are ourselves under obligation to love one another.” When a person becomes a Christian he has to develop deep roots. He must try to attain the fullness that God requires. Paul, in writing to the Ephesians, states it in this way: “With deep roots and firm foundations, may you be strong to grasp, with all God’s people, what is the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ, and to know it, though it is beyond knowledge. So may you attain to fullness of being, the fullness of God himself.” (Eph. 3:18, 19, NE) The encouragement in God’s Word is for Christians to put forth an earnest effort to grasp the love shown through Christ and, in imitating him, to try to be like God. Christians must strive to do this.
20. How does what Paul wrote about love, at Romans 8:31-39, provide fine encouragement for us?
20 We have fine encouragement in this, as written by the apostle Paul. He wrote: “With all this in mind, what are we to say? If God is on our side, who is against us? He did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all; and with this gift how can he fail to lavish upon us all he has to give? Who will be the accuser of God’s chosen ones? It is God who pronounces acquittal; then who can condemn? It is Christ—Christ who died, and, more than that, was raised from the dead—who is at God’s right hand, and indeed pleads our cause. Then what can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or hardship? Can persecution, hunger, nakedness, peril, or the sword? ‘We are being done to death for thy sake all day long,’ as Scripture says; ‘we have been treated like sheep for slaughter’—and yet, in spite of all, overwhelming victory is ours through him who loved us. For I am convinced that there is nothing in death or life, in the realm of spirits or superhuman powers, in the world as it is or the world as it shall be, in the forces of the universe, in heights or depths—nothing in all creation that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”—Rom. 8:31-39, NE.
21. (a) Why did Paul tell others to imitate him? (b) In this regard, what responsibility do we all have?
21 Paul had full confidence that Jehovah loved him, and therefore he was earnestly endeavoring to be an imitator of God. Consequently, when writing to the Philippians, Paul said: “The things that you learned as well as accepted and heard and saw in connection with me, practice these; and the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:9) The apostle Paul fully appreciated that all of us make mistakes, but he knew that he was trying hard and setting the right example for the brothers. That is why he said: “Unitedly become imitators of me, brothers, and keep your eye on those who are walking in a way that accords with the example you have in us.” (Phil. 3:17) Elders, as well as others who have been in the truth for a long time or even a short period, have a great responsibility to set the right example, even as Paul did. If they do not do so, then it can cause stumbling to other brothers within God’s organization. We are admonished by Paul: “Keep from becoming causes for stumbling to Jews as well as Greeks and to the congregation of God, even as I am pleasing all people in all things, not seeking my own advantage but that of the many, in order that they might get saved.”—1 Cor. 10:32, 33.
22. What can aid us to succeed in our efforts to be like God?
22 Paul had the very same spirit toward mankind that Jehovah God has. He learned this from Jehovah. He knew of the need to love one’s neighbors and to give them the full opportunity to gain eternal life. That is why, in the very next verse, he says: “Become imitators of me, even as I am of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1) Paul kept his eye on the Son of God. He knew that Jesus was perfect and that he set a wonderful example in trying to be just like his Father, and so Paul felt the same way. Paul knew what was recorded in God’s Word and so he admonishes all of us to “remember those who are taking the lead among you, who have spoken the word of God to you, and as you contemplate how their conduct turns out imitate their faith.” (Heb. 13:7) We do not want to follow the ways of the old world. While we may be in it, we are not a part of it. The finest example that we could follow is that which Jehovah God himself presents. Also, Jesus, when he was on the earth, said that “he that has seen me has seen the Father also.” (John 14:9) So if we want to imitate Jehovah God, or be like him, then certainly we want to be like Christ Jesus, a man of integrity.
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Adam was God’s son, made “in God’s image,” and we all come from Adam
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When we imitate Jesus Christ we are being like God, because Jesus was like his Father in heaven. John the Baptist said that Jesus is “the Son of God”