Read Philippians 3:15-4:1
Imagine teaching a young child how to use scissors with merely verbal instructions or teaching an elementary aged student how to shoot a lay-up in basketball with only a written description of the process. It would be much easier if there was someone to demonstrate how. When we have someone to imitate, things are much simpler.
For three chapters now, the apostle Paul has shared his love, concern, and instruction with believers in the city of Philippi. He has done so through words on a page. Now, as he rounds the corner towards the final chapter, he reminds them that he has given them an example to imitate. This was not a prideful claim of perfection. That was made clear in the previous verses where he stated that he had not “already been made perfect” (3:12).
No, instead of being a statement of prideful perfection, this invitation flows from the recognition that there are two extreme “imitation options” out there! The desirable one is the one that he had lived. It was a pattern of life that others were now practicing. Paul was asking all of those believers to imitate that lifestyle. You too should seek to imitate people who model consistent lives lived in light of eternity. These are people who live as if this earth is not their home (vv. 20, 21). They are looking forward to the return of Jesus, who will bring about life transformation
At the other end of the spectrum, there are people whose lives are just the opposite. Instead of being worthy of imitation, their lifestyles are worthy of warning and even tears of grief (vv. 18, 19). They are enemies of the cross, living as if life on this earth is all there is. Their lives are lived for themselves. They even boast in the very things that should cause them shame. Be aware of such people! Don’t imitate them. But you should also be careful not to write them off. Allow yourself to be moved to tears (and to prayer) as you encounter such people!
Have you, in your mind, identified people, who, although imperfect, are modeling what the Christian life should look like? Recognize that only Jesus should be worshiped, but don’t be afraid to allow their example to become a hands on demonstration of what it looks like to follow Him.