Back in 1993, professional basketball player Charles Barkley made headlines when he declared, “I’m not a role model. Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.”
He was right about that last part, but he failed to realize that when you play in the NBA, being a role model to millions of aspiring young athletes just comes with the territory. The only question for such men is: are you a good role model or a bad one?
The same is true in the Christian life. You may not think you are setting an example for anyone, but no matter who you are, someone looks up to you. And if you name the name of Christ, the only question is: are you a good Christian role model, or a bad one?
This is true even for young Christians. That’s why Paul told a young man named Titus:
“In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works” (Titus 2:7).
The word “pattern” is just another word for model. So Paul’s words to young Titus remind us that Christians of all ages should be role models for other believers by doing good works.
Now, if you find that you need some incentive to choose to be a pattern of good works, let’s compare how God used that word “pattern” to motivate His people to walk in good works under the law of Moses. He told Ezekiel to tell the people of Israel,
“…shew the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern… shew them the form of the house… and the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof… and all the ordinances thereof… and all the laws thereof…” (Ezek. 43:10,11).
If the people of Israel in Ezekiel’s day weren’t ashamed of their sins, God told him to have them look at all the trouble to which He had gone to forgive their sins. He told him to show the “house” of Israel the magnificence of His other “house,” the temple that Solomon built to receive their sacrifices, and all the “comings” and “goings” of the priests in the temple, and all the intricate “laws” and regulations of the priesthood. In other words, He wanted them to “measure the pattern” of their religion to remind them of the lengths to which He had gone to forgive their sins, and then ask themselves if they should continue in sin in light of all that He had done for them.
The Full Measure of Devotion
Of course, today we don’t look to the temple to measure the lengths to which God went to forgive our sins, nor do we look to Israel’s priesthood, or anything else in her religion. Today we look to the cross. In light of the “unspeakable” sacrifice Christ made there on our behalf (2 Cor. 9:15), it would be the height of ingratitude for “we, that are dead to sin” to “live any longer therein” (Rom. 6:2).
That’s why, in learning to walk in good works and not bad works, we study the cross and not the temple, and let “the love of Christ” constrain us, “that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:14,15). As Isaac Watts wrote in that sacred hymn centuries ago:
When I survey the wondrous cross, On which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride.
Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were an offering far too small:
Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.
But if you need even more incentive to become a pattern of good works, consider how Hebrews 8:5 uses that word pattern:
“Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle… See… that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.”
God told Moses to make the tabernacle and “all things” that were within it according to a pattern. Later we learn that those things were “the patterns of things in the heavens” (Heb. 9:23). You see, the tabernacle that Moses built in the wilderness was patterned after a tabernacle in heaven, one that God calls “the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man” (Heb. 8:2). That means when God’s people in Israel entered the tabernacle on earth, they were entering a little bit of heaven on earth, because they were surrounded by things that reflected what things look like in heaven.
In the same way, if you follow Paul’s advice and show yourself to be a pattern of good works in all things, you too can experience a little bit of heaven right here on earth. You too can surround yourself, and everyone around you, with things that reflect things in heaven. Heaven is filled with people doing good works, and you can experience that heavenly encouragement now, in this life. And if that doesn’t motivate you to be a pattern of good works in all things, you’re just not being selfish enough!
Creatures of Habit
Gandhi wrote: “Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.” Since the word “habit” is a synonym for pattern, this quote reminds me of the even higher calling that Paul issues us when he calls on us to show ourselves “a pattern of good works” (Titus 2:7).
I say that we have a higher calling than that to which Gandhi called men because we are not called upon merely to achieve an admirable “destiny” for ourselves in life by bettering the thoughts and actions that fill our everyday lives. We are called upon to achieve an admirable destiny for others by showing ourselves a pattern of good works to which they can look in order to mold their own destinies in life for the Lord. That’s an infinitely higher calling than just aspiring to better yourself!
But you need to show yourself to be a pattern of good works in such a way that unsaved people know you’re not doing good works to pay for your sins, as they think they are doing, but instead to show your connection to the Savior who paid for your sins. We see this illustrated in a striking way not long after the people of Israel entered the Promised Land.
Upon arriving in the land, God allowed the tribes of Reuben and Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh to take up residence on the wilderness side of the Jordan River because they were cattlemen, and the land there was more conducive to raising cattle than in Israel (Num. 32:1-33). But “when they came unto the borders of Jordan” they “built there an altar by Jordan” (Josh. 22:10). On the surface, this appeared to be a serious “trespass” (Josh. 22:16), for God had chosen a place in Israel for His “habitation” (Deut.12:5), and it was there that His people were to bring their sacrifices (vv. 5, 10, 11).
The Reason for the Treason
But when the other tribes in Israel took these cattlemen to task about their altar, they defended themselves by saying,
“Behold the pattern of the altar of the Lord, which our fathers made, not for burnt offerings, nor for sacrifices; but it is a witness between us and you” (Josh. 22:28).
These faithful tribes admitted that they had patterned their altar after the one God ordained in the tabernacle, but they protested that they never intended to offer sacrifices on it. That is, they didn’t raise that altar to try to pay for their sins. They raised it to show their connection to the altar in Israel that paid for their sins (vv. 21-27). So it was a good work that they had done in so doing, not a bad work.
In the same way, the reason you want to be a pattern of good works in all things isn’t to pay for your sins, but to show your connection to the Savior who paid for your sins. People need to know that that’s why you do good works, so they know that salvation is “not of works” (Eph. 2:9). And the only way that’s going to happen is if you tell people that you do good works because you’ve been saved by grace!
The explanation proffered by the two and a half tribes not only satisfied their brethren in Israel and allayed their concerns, we are twice told that it “pleased” them (Josh. 22:30, 33). And when you as a believer are “fruitful in every good work,” you “walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing” (Col. 1:10), as you show the world your connection to Him and the sacrifice that He made for you.
It’s your only real hope of happiness in life. You see, if you have trusted Christ’s sacrifice as the payment for your sins, you are in Christ, and “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17). And Paul says that we were “created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Eph. 2:10). And no creature of God is ever happy unless he is doing what God created him to do. Birds were created to fly, horses were created to run, and fish were created to swim, and none of them are happy when they are caged. And you’ll never know true happiness in life unless you’re walking in the good works that God created you to walk in.
Before you were saved, you were “accustomed to do evil” (Jer. 13:23). You were a creature of habit — bad habits. Why not determine right now to become a creature of good habits? It’s a decision you’ll never regret!
A Holding Pattern That Casts the Lord in a Good Light
There is also a dispensational aspect to being a pattern of good works that it is important to keep in mind.
Do you remember reading about the “seven lamps” that made up “the candlestick” in the tabernacle (Num. 8:1-4)? If so, you may remember that this candlestick was carefully made “according unto the pattern which the Lord had showed Moses” (Num. 8:4). It was a pattern that typified the Lord, who later declared,
“I am the light of the world; he that followeth Me… shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).
When the Lord was here, He was the light of the world because—like the candlestick that typified Him—He was “made under the law” (Gal. 4:4), and He walked according to the pattern which the Lord had showed Moses in the law. And the law is what offered the light of eternal life to men back then. But later the Lord added,
“As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5).
Now that He’s gone, the world has a different source of spiritual light, one that Paul described when he wrote to us,
“…YE shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life” (Phil. 2:15,16).
Now that the Lord is no longer here on earth, it’s our turn to be the light of the world, as we offer the light of eternal life to the lost!
But we don’t shine as lights in the world as our Lord did, by walking according to the pattern of the law, and offering the law to men for eternal life. “We are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:15). So we shine the light of grace by walking according to the pattern of good works we find in the epistles of Paul, the apostle of grace, and offering them salvation by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8,9). If you are still observing Israel’s sabbath, or adhering to the restricted diet of Leviticus 11, etc., your works are telling people we’re under the law! And that’s not shining the right light of life to lost sinners. It’s hard to get people saved by grace if they think we’re under the law!
Don’t Shine and Whine!
We know that walking in good works is an important part of shining as lights in the world, for in telling the Philippians that they were the light of the world, Paul prefaced his words by saying,
“Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:14,15).
That’s Paul’s way of saying that you shouldn’t be trying to shine the light of life to men if you yourself are walking in crooked and perverse darkness, or even in murmuring or disputing!
But as you shine the light of grace, adorned by the testimony of your pattern of good works, it is important to let people know that you’re not walking in good works because you’re a good person. You need to let them know that you’re doing it because you’re a child of God. That’s what the Lord had in mind when He said,
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).
Now, you know why He had to say that. When men see you do good works, they tend to glorify you instead of God, saying things like, “Isn’t he a good man for doing that!” The Lord said not to let them think that way, to let your light shine in such a way that they will glorify God instead.
And there’s only one way to do that, and that’s to let people know that you belong to the Lord. That way God gets the glory when men see your good works, not you. It’s the only way to cast the Lord in a good light!
Why not determine to embark upon your career in Christian modeling right now, by “shewing thyself a pattern of good works” in all things. You’ll be eternally glad you did.