TEACHING BY EXAMPLE

 

 

 

Titus 2:7-8

In everything set them an example by doing what is good.  In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.  (NIV)

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Actions speak louder than words and people will judge us by what kind of life we live.  While it is essential to teach others from the scriptures, it is equally important to demonstrate our teaching through a lifestyle that is an example of Christ-like behavior.

 

In order for us to become an example of godliness to our fellow man, the example must originate out of our desire to be pleasing to God.  The true test of a man or woman of God is in what he or she does, says, or thinks when only God and Jesus are watching.   If you act sinfully when no other human being can see, you are out of tune with God, and living in the darkness of self-deception.

 

A personal relationship with God or man demands reciprocation of some sort.  In other words, you will treat those you care for or those you despise accordingly.  To teach others by your example implies you care enough about the relationships to treat them with respect and integrity.

 

·         Luke 16:13 "No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other…”  (NIV)

 

 A common example of disrespect is the man who says to a woman, “I love you honey,” and then abuses her verbally, emotionally, and in too many cases, physically.  A man who TRULY loves a woman does so with more than just words, as important as words are.  He must, of necessity, show her the dignity and respect she deserves as God’s child. 

 

Jesus reprimanded the Jewish leaders (aka ‘Jews’) and warned his disciples regarding their hypocrisy.  These men were considered the religious ministers to Israel (not modern-day Israel as a sovereign nation, but Israel as God’s elect) and were known as scribes, lawyers of the Law, and as Pharisees and Sadducees. 

 

The Jews taught from scripture in the synagogues, but they failed to obey their own words.  They were like many Christian pastors and ministers today who say one thing, and do just the opposite.

 

·         Matt 23:1-3 Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them.  (NAS)

 

Countless people have rejected the gospel because of the hypocritical behavior of Christians.  Nowhere is this spiritual tragedy more evident than in the United States of America.  Televangelists and so-called ‘Christian’ television and radio hosts broadcast a message of greed, selfishness and exploitation of the naïve.  This component alone is enough to spoil the message of the gospel, and is only the tip of an iceberg of duplicity among those that claim the name of Jesus Christ.

 

Unstable new converts can be easily stumbled by the ungodly behavior of other Christians.  The apostles Paul and Peter exhorted the older men and women in the early churches to be an example of sober and godly living for young men and women.

 

A heartrending chapter in our history is the stumbling block that parents have created for children by their willful disregard and apathy towards God’s commands.  Children are vulnerable and susceptible and at a very early age learn to imitate mom, dad and older siblings. 

 

While born-again Christians point their finger and blame the Democrats for polluting the morals of the nation, few of them, especially parents, accept responsibility for the effect their actions and speech has on their kids.

Take to heart what Jesus is saying in the passage above.  If you have fallen short of God’s standard, then simply repent, and confess your sins to the Father.  He will forgive you, and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (I John 1:8-9).  Then embrace full responsibility for your behavior, and realize it will affect the children who look up to you as a role model.  The way we treat children is the way we are treating Jesus, “And whoever receives and accepts and welcomes one little child like this for my sake and in my name receives and accepts and welcomes me.”

 

If your lifestyle causes others to stumble and be easily enticed into sin, then do a 180-degree turn.  Jesus said, “if your hand or your foot causes you to stumble and sin, cut it off and throw it away from you.”  The hand, foot and eyes are metaphors that represent our walk with God (foot), what we do (hand) and what we desire (eyes are tied to the heart; Matthew 6:21-24).  For example, if you use cuss words, even when nobody but God is listening, just stop cussing; cut off that stumbling block, and ask God for help to overcome the weakness of your flesh.

 

Another way we can easily stumble others, especially children, is by smoking cigarettes.  While it is my opinion that cigarette smoking is not the “unpardonable sin” it IS a stumbling block to children.  If you must smoke, the very least you can do is abstain in front of children.  Better yet, stop smoking cold turkey (proven to be the most effective means of quitting).   This is one illustration of what a person must “cut off” to prevent stumbling blocks.

 

People are watching you and your life is a book for them to read.  Each day of your life is a page turned, and the words read by people are what come out of your mouth, and the words that come out of your mouth originate from your mind and heart.  Remember this:  Whatsoever you nourish your mind and heart with is what you will inevitably act out. 

 

When we sin in secret, we think it only affect us as individuals.  This kind of thinking is spurious and shortsighted.  When we sin, it does hurt us, but it also does damage to the members of the body of Christ.  It saps us of spiritual strength and vigor; it dominates us, and robs us of God’s anointing to love and care for others.  Sin will consume and obsess our time and energy, thereby taking us away from our God appointed role as encouragers in the body of Jesus…SELAH.

 

·         1 Corinthians 11:27-31 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.  A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.  That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.  But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.  (NIV)

 

I once spoke with an executive officer at a Fortune 500 company.  She was a successful businesswoman and a born-again Christian.  We were confessing our faults to each other one day, and she told me how she had struggled with having a temper, and exhibiting “road rage” when freeway drivers were careless. 

 

One day a slow moving vehicle merged onto the freeway, causing her to hit her brakes, and making her slow down below the speed limit.  She felt inconvenienced and annoyed, and rage welled up within her.  She stepped on the gas, and angrily passed the car, giving the driver the middle finger as she passed him.  As the man driving the other car glanced over to see her rude hand signal, she recognized his face…it was her pastor!  This incident cured her of road rage because her sin caused her great embarrassment.

 

·         Numbers 32:23 “…and you may be sure that your sin will find you out.”  (NIV)

 

Your sin will find you out, whether it be through embarrassment or whether it be through another consequence.  Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  God is not mocked; whatever we sow, that shall we also reap, whether we sow to our flesh, and reap corruption, or whether we sow to the spirit and reap the life of God.

 

Refusing to digest Hollywood’s garbage on TV and in movies, or not reading the vomit found in trashy novels, magazines or on the Internet is only the beginning of setting a godly example.  Abstaining from these things is a no-brainer to anybody who wants Jesus in his or her life.  You must not be overcome by evil AND you must overcome evil with good.  Read the word of God; open your Bible and give it equal time with the boob tube.

 

There is an even subtler form of deception that begins in our mind.  Satan and his spiritual forces of darkness introduce all manner of evil into our thought life.  For example, when we get agitated and annoyed with people, and then allow our mind to be obsessed with critical thoughts of them, we have become a slave to sin.  The longer these negative thoughts continue, the more we will act them out, and the example we leave for others will be destructive and harmful. 

 

The Disciple Is Not Greater Than His Master

 

 

Jesus provided us with the ultimate example of love for God and man.  To be a disciple of Jesus, and to follow his example, one must first count the costs.  The price is high if you want to build your spiritual house upon the foundation of the Rock.

 

 

We must count the cost, and understand the price to pay when trying to build God’s house.  To do God’s will there is always an outlay of time, personal pain and withdrawal from the pleasures of this life.  There must be a deep and active commitment to lose sight of one’s own self interests.  This is what Jesus means when he says, “let him deny himself, disregard, lose sight of, and forget himself and his own interests.” (Matthew 16:24 Amplified)

 

When we take up our own cross and follow Jesus, we make the decision that self comes in last place and God’s will comes in first place.  To take up one’s own cross means individual conformity to the example provided by Jesus; that is, putting our esteem and values upon the eternal, and losing the affection for what is only temporal.  This involves prolonged pain and suffering, as the flesh does not die instantly nor will it be crucified without a struggle.

 

 

Jesus suffered for the sake of righteousness and he did not revile those who inflicted harm upon him.  Jesus learned obedience through the things he suffered.  He committed himself to the One who judges righteously.  He deemed God’s judgment to be superior to his own feelings.  With his Father’s help, Jesus did not let his emotions dictate his response to others, or to painful circumstances.  Through his pain, Jesus left us an example to follow.

 

Jesus is our master, and yet he wants us to know he is also the servant.  A true leader is one who serves others.  Shamefully, too many pastors revel in the insignificant role, rather than finding the joy of simply being a lowly foot washer. 

 

 

No one is greater than his master.  Ask someone who has earned his black belt in Tae Kwon Do if he or she was greater than the master who taught him or her.  The lowly student with his or her white belt shows respect and humility as they learn from the experienced black belt.  This example is an earthly one, but it shows us that greatness can only be found in humility. 

 

Recognition that Jesus is a King who lived his life as a servant should motivate us to serve others at his command, following his example.  By doing this, we in turn provide an example for others to follow.  The failure to follow his example can create stumbling blocks and lukewarm disciples.

 

Why would Jesus think it needful, on the eve of his impending death, to wash the disciple’s feet?  What point would it serve?  Why is the event even recorded in the scriptures?

 

In the ancient eastern culture, foot washing was done as a show of hospitality, and it was a practical step in expressing one’s feelings and affections for the other person; it said, “I welcome you into my home as my own flesh and blood; I will care for your needs while you are here, and if necessary, I will protect you with my life.  This washing of your feet signifies my friendship and trust.  It demonstrates my willingness to meet even the smallest and most insignificant needs you may have.”

 

Foot washing was done by the servants in homes of those wealthy enough to own slaves.  It was a nasty job, as the roads were unpaved, and often the dust and mud that would cling to one’s feet would be mingled with animal and human excrement and urine.  A traveler who had journeyed for days would have a pair of feet caked with filth and reeking with a pungent odor.  The feet would also be cracked and in need of gentle care, even massaging them with olive oil after the cleansing.  It would be considered rude to massage the feet with Popeye instead of Oliveoil (haha…take a laugh break; everything doesn’t have to be so serious!).

 

Jesus washed the disciples feet for a good reason.  He was telling them, “You must be willing to serve others on the lowest level.  You must go where others refuse to tread.  Your pride and ego, whether it be religious or social, means nothing in the expression of God’s love.  The only thing that truly matters is this:  Will you express God’s love anywhere, and in any way, and to anyone that He desires?

 

Jesus provided an example that told the disciples, “Begin with one another, and then take your service to the world.”  This is what is meant by his words, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.”

 

Don’t Give Up…Being An Example To Others does NOT Require Perfection

 

Nobody is perfect, and oftentimes-extreme conditions in life cause us to snap and break down altogether.  We must be careful not to demand more of others and ourselves than God does.

 

I know from my own personal experience with years of chronic severe pain and prolonged days and weeks of sleep deprivation how destructive a toll it can take on a human being.  I would not want anyone to view my behavior during my worst moments of delirious mental anguish and torment of the soul and mind.  How easy it is to get angry, and just snap, and oh my, the words that come out of my mouth when the pressure is at its peak!

 

Being an “example” includes being crushed and broken; this is HOW we BECOME an example to others.  It is in the hard press of life that we are molded and shaped.  Our character becomes more like Jesus in hard times.  It is when we fail, then fail again, that we find forgiveness, then muster up the strength and seek the grace to go on one more hour, or one more day.  These are the times when we TRULY DISCOVER that God is nearest to the brokenhearted.

 

·         Psalms 34:18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  (NIV)

 

What is hope without the challenge of having it?  In other words, how can one hope for what he or she already has?  Only when we are placed into situations that bring out both the worst and the best in us do we cry “uncle.”  When we are the very ends of ourselves, we are forced to hope in God, or give up altogether.  It is then we become an example of suffering and hope to our brethren, and only then do we find out how authentic our sincerity before God is.

 

·         Psalms 38: 6-15 I am bent over and greatly bowed down; I go mourning all day long.  For my loins are filled with burning; and there is no soundness in my flesh.  I am benumbed and badly crushed; I groan because of the agitation of my heart.  Lord, all my desire is before Thee; and my sighing is not hidden from Thee.  My heart throbs, my strength fails me; and the light of my eyes, even that has gone from me.  My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague; and my kinsmen stand afar off.  Those who seek my life lay snares for me and those who seek to injure me have threatened destruction, and they devise treachery all day long.  But I, like a deaf man, do not hear; and I am like a dumb man who does not open his mouth.  Yes, I am like a man who does not hear, and in whose mouth are no arguments.  For I hope in Thee, O LORD; Thou wilt answer, O Lord my God.  (NAS)

 

Adversity works in us death.  It is a death to self and death to the cravings of our flesh.  When we are pushed beyond what our human limits can stand, we find out just how much courage and resilience we have deep inside our hearts.  We find a sense of trust in our Father in heaven we never knew possible, and years of bondage to sin drop off in mere days or weeks.  As others watch us persevere in the most difficult circumstances, it benefits them, and gives them the hope and the guts to face their own demons and fears.  There is no greater example of Jesus we can provide to others than to keep trying when it makes sense to quit and utterly give up.

 

·         2 Corinthians 4:7-18 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.  So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.  It is written: "I believed; therefore I have spoken."  With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.  All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.  Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  (NIV)

 

Most ministers or pastors project an unrealistic example to their congregations.  Because they are in full view of the public eye, they feel compelled to “perform” and live up to the expectations of others.  Rarely does a pastor publicly share his faults, sins or weaknesses.  He fears he might fail to meet the standard and criteria of those whose legalism would surely motivate them to say, “After all, he’s the pastor, and HE should not have these kinds of problems.”

 

The simple fact is this: Pastors and ministers are no different than the average believer.  Yes, they are held to a level of integrity that is supposed to be exemplary.  However, they must also e viewed as our equals and our brothers in Christ, and they must feel they have the freedom to share their weak areas without being critiqued, maligned and misjudged.  Many a minister has fallen prey to the devil’s deception because they felt they had no one with whom they could share faults.

 

 

The apostle Paul said of sinners, “of whom I am the worst.”  His freedom to admit his sin was key to his message.  People listened to this man who once persecuted even the church, and who was not bashful about admitting his faults and shortcomings.  Like King David, Paul was a man humble enough to publicly ask forgiveness, and for this reason he received mercy, that in him, “Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” 

 

 

Follow Our Example As We follow Christ Jesus

(A True Shepherd Does More Than Preach & Teach)

 

Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica, commending them for following his example.

 

 

 

The example Paul and the other apostles demonstrated was in everyday stuff; he worked and lived among the people.  He was not aloof from them, nor was he a religious socialite.  He had the right to material benefits among the church, but worked a mundane job to expose those who were disorderly and lazy.  By so doing, he left an example that gave the words he wrote and spoke more credibility.

 

 

Elders Must Be An Example

(This includes older women and men)

 

 

The apostle Peter exhorts the men called as elders in the church; the same men are the equivalent of pastors, albeit the Western church has drifted away from the type of leadership spelled out in the New Testament (i.e. – a plurality of equal elders verse a one-man pastoral role).  In chapter five of the first Book of Peter, he addresses the elders who have been appointed as overseers. 

 

Overseers are those whose rank and position in the body of Christ demands they lead and guide the flock.  As such, the example they provide is ESSENTIAL in validating the truth of the gospel.  The true shepherd is one who tends, nurtures, guards, and guides the flock of God that is under their responsibility.  They must not do this because they feel coerced or under constraint, but willingly; not dishonorably motivated by the advantages and profits belonging to the office, but eagerly and cheerfully; not domineering [as arrogant, dictatorial, and overbearing persons] over those in your charge, but being examples and patterns and models of Christian living to the flock (the congregation).

 

 

The Example of Parents

 

Parents have the most awesome responsibility of anyone.  They live day to day with their children, and train, guide and prepare them to be examples.  Children are the most perceptive of all critics; they can pick up on even the tiniest of good or bad attitudes and behavior.  They catch every careless word, and treasure every expression of love and recognition.

 

 

The legacy of parental example extends far beyond their lifetime.  Jehoshaphat followed the example of “his father David's earlier days.”  David realized how vital his role as a parent and king would be to future generations.  David’s legacy has extended for many centuries, and his influence still speaks to millions from the scriptures.

 

 

The main reason America and the rest of the world today is so messed up is directly tied to the woeful lack on the part of fathers and mothers who sire children like they are mere objects.  Dad thinks he is being a good father because, “I provide a decent income for my family.”  Mom thinks she has done her motherly duty because she dressed, cooked and cared for the kids.

 

Sadly, children today are lacking the moral fiber than can come ONLY from the values instilled by parents who express their love in truth, discipline, and genuine interest in their children’s lives.  Parents suppose that if they do “what they think is best” for the child he or she will turn out just fine.  Determining “what is best” is most often very subjective, and based on the foundational values they acquired from their parents.

 

After World War II our nation began a progressive decline in the life of the family as an organism.  The economy was soaring and technology was advancing at a rapid pace.  The media, financed by globalist bankers bent on world domination, began a systematic and wholesale slaughter on the morality of the Bible.  Financiers set in motion an avalanche of desire for materialistic and our nation bought it hook line and sinker.

 

Soon, instead of seeking first the kingdom of God, Dads were working 12-14 hour days trying to achieve “the American dream.”  The trend continues to rumble down on top of the generations they raised, and the consequences are devastating.  Families don’t spend time together, and the one-on-one needed by sons and daughters from mom and dad is almost extinct.

 

Great grandparents now, the parents of the 1950’s scratch their heads in bewilderment, “Where did we go wrong?  We worked hard and raised our kids to do the same, and now look how they’ve turned into unaffectionate, self-centered children who care only for themselves!”

 

Well guess what grandma and grandpa, you started it!  The scripture tells the truth, and it never lies.  If you train up a child in the right way, he or she will most likely follow.  If you set an example that says, “I love you because I provided the THINGS you needed,” you missed the boat completely.

 

Your children and grandchildren didn’t need the clothing and food and college education you were deprived of as much as they needed your LOVE!  How often did you take each child, one-on-one, and spend quality time together?  In contrast, how often did you sit down in front of that one-eyed electronic box until bedtime, compared to how many times you spent helping your son or daughter with their homework?  Did you take at least one day per week apart from job, yard work, bill paying and other mundane duties just to hang out with your child?  Could your children HONESTLY say Mom and Dad was their very best friend?

 

The most familiar portion of scripture throughout time is the Ten Commandments.  Etched in stone upon the walls of courtrooms, city halls, and in front of capitol buildings across America, it indicts us as a nation:

 

 

Is it mere coincidence that the Ten Commandments begin with the prohibition on idolatry? Have we made our homes, yards, possessions and our 401K an idol?  Did we REALLY provide a living example for our children to live by?  Notice the progression of the Ten Commandments; first God prohibits idolatry, then He tells us not to bow down before and worship them.

 

You might say, “I certainly don’t worship what I own!”  Perhaps, but Romans 12:1 says we are to present our bodies as a “living sacrifice” to God, which is our spiritual service of “worship.”  Was your time and energy “sacrificed” to fashion that pristine landscaped yard?

 

Hmmm, are we being honest?  How about the years of overtime you put in to buy that nice home in that nice neighborhood?  Was it a “living sacrifice” to get what you wanted?  If so, it IS possible that you had some idolatry cooking.  Let God search your heart, and then give a sincere reply.

 

It is not as though it is a huge sin to work hard to provide a comfortable home for your family.  You want to bless your children, but at what cost?  Do the kids get their fair share of your time?  When they are with mom and dad, can they see the love flow?  Does your marriage typify Christ and his church?

 

God says, “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments.”  Our attitudes, our behavior, how we speak, and how we spend our time will affect our children, and future generations.  We cannot BUY the love and respect of our children, and stern discipline will not undo years of unintentional neglect.

 

 

The only way we can truly teach our children is by way of example.  If we say one thing, and do another on a regular basis, what kind of message does that send to our kids?  They will see us as hypocrites, and when they reach puberty, most likely they’ll reject our gospel message.

 

 

We Are A Letter of Recommendation For All To Read

 

It is a fitting end to this study to reiterate that we are a letter that people read. 

 

 

If the letter people read says, “They are a hypocrite,” then we need only repent, ask for God’s forgiveness in Jesus, and start anew.”  There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  God gives second chances, and He does it over and over and over again.  Don’t be afraid to fail, or even to make an effort.  Failure is part of our human existence.  Rather, fear God, and keep His commandments, for this applies to everyone.

 

 

 


 

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[1]The Amplified New Testament, (La Habra CA: The Lockman Foundation) 1999.

[2]The Amplified New Testament, (La Habra CA: The Lockman Foundation) 1999.

[3]The Amplified New Testament, (La Habra CA: The Lockman Foundation) 1999.

[4]The Amplified New Testament, (La Habra CA: The Lockman Foundation) 1999.

[5]The Amplified New Testament, (La Habra CA: The Lockman Foundation) 1999.