|Here's a poem by John Nicholson (1839-1909) that you may have heard before (LDS Hymn 116):
"Come, follow me", the Savior said.Then let us in his footsteps tread,For thus alone can we be oneWith God's own begotten Son. "Come, follow me, a simple phrase,Yet truth's sublime, effulgent raysAre in these simple words combinedTo urge, inspire the human mind. Is it enough alone to knowThat we must follow him [here] belowWhile trav'ling through this vale of tears?No, this extends to holier spheres. Not only shall we emulateHis course while in this earthly state,But when we're freed from present cares,If with our Lord we would be heirs. We must the onward path pursueAs wider fields expand to view,And follow him unceasingly,Whate'er our lot or sphere may be. For thrones, dominions, kingdoms, pow'rs,And glory great and bliss are ours,If we, throughout eternity,Obey his words, "Come follow me."
Christ set the example for us. His example is a model for us to follow. We accepted the challenge to follow him when we accepted the restored gospel. At baptism, and each time we partake of the sacrament, we covenant to follow Christ.
In order to follow him, we must learn about him, the things he taught, the things he did, and the way he handled challenges during his Earthly ministry. Having learned these lessons we are commanded to follow his example. These are some of the examples he set for us:
Christ was obedient and valiant throughout his premortal life, thus gaining the privilege of coming into mortality and receiving a body of flesh and bones.
As a deacon-aged boy, he showed his faithfulness in scripture study as he discussed the gospel with the priests in the temple.
As he prepared for his ministry, he demonstrated great willpower and spiritual strength by fasting 40 days and nights, and even then refusing food.
He demonstrated humility and submission to God by refusing to worship Satan or submit to his temptations.
Christ did not rationalize so he could fall to temptation. Instead, he positively and promptly closed the discussion, and commanded: "Get thee hence, Satan." This is this is the way we too should react to temptation if we would prevent sin rather than be faced with the much more difficult task of repenting from it. He spent his energies fortifying himself against temptation rather than battling with it to conquer it.
Indecision and discouragement are climates in which the adversary loves to function, for he can inflict so many casualties among mankind in those settings. Christ showed us that we should make decisions to do right before the temptation comes.
He overcame the temptations of the world. He bridled every passion and rose above the carnal and sensual plane so that he lived and walked as guided by the Spirit. In obedience to the Father. Jesus lived a perfect life without sin and acquired all of the attributes of Godliness.
Although he was perfect and needed no remission of sins, he was baptized by one having the proper authority. He did this in obedience to God's plan and so that he too would have the necessary ordinances for admission into the Celestial Kingdom.
He worthily held the priesthood and he performed ordinances and blessings including the blessing of children, administering to the sick, and ordinations to the priesthood.
Jesus served for about three years in a ministry of teaching the gospel, bearing witness of the truth, and teaching men what they must do to find joy and happiness in this life and eternal glory in the world to come.
He accepted the authority of Earthly governments and encouraged us to obey the law of the land.
Jesus saw sin as wrong but also was able to see sin as springing from deep and unmet needs on the part of the sinner. This permitted him to condemn the sin without condemning the individual. We also can show our love for others even when we are called upon to correct them. We need to be able to look deeply enough into the lives of others to see the basic causes for their failures and shortcomings. Then help them.
He accepted the repentant and readily forgave them. He never held a grudge against the many who persecuted him and wanted to do him harm during his ministry. He even forgave those who killed him.
Although he was a forgiving man, he refused to tolerate irreverence to God and drove the moneychangers and merchants from the temple. He had the courage to take a stand against what is wrong.
Jesus demonstrated exemplary leadership. He knew who he was and why he was here on this planet. That meant he could lead from strength rather than from uncertainty or weakness.
Jesus operated from a base of fixed values and truths rather than making up the rules as he went along or checking the polls. Thus, his leadership style was not only correct, but also constant. So many leaders today are like chameleons; they change their behaviors, policies and views to fit the situation. Those who cling to power at the expense of principle often end up doing almost anything to perpetuate their power.
Jesus said several times, "Come, follow me." His was a program of "do what I do," rather than "do what I say." His innate brilliance would have permitted him to put on a dazzling display, but that would have left his followers far behind. He walked and worked with those he was called to serve. His was not a long-distance leadership. He was not afraid of close friendships. He was not afraid that proximity to him would disappoint his followers.
Jesus was a listening leader. Because he loved others with a perfect love, he listened without being condescending.
Because Jesus loved his followers, he was able to level with them, to be candid and forthright with them. He reproved Peter at times because he loved him, and Peter, being a great man, was able to grow from this reproof.
Jesus had perspective about problems and people. He knew 2,000 years ago the effect and impact of his teachings, not only on those who were to hear them at the moment, but also on us who read them today. So often, leaders of today rush in to solve problems by seeking to stop the present pain only do what they perceive as popular, and thereby create even greater difficulty and pain later on.
Jesus knew how to delegate and to encourage his disciples to grow. He gave them important and specific things to do for their spiritual and leadership development. Other leaders have sought to be so competent that they have tried to do everything themselves, which produces little growth in others. Jesus trusts his followers enough to share his work with them so that they can grow.
Jesus' leadership emphasized the importance of being discerning with regard to others, without seeking to control them. Throughout his ministry he always respected man's free agency. He taught people how they should live, but he always left the choice up to them He cared about the freedom of his followers to choose.
Jesus was not afraid to make demands of those he led. His leadership was not condescending or soft. He had the courage to call Peter and others to leave their fishing nets and to follow him, not after the fishing season or after the next catch, but now! Today! Jesus let people know that he believed in them and in their possibilities, and thus he was free to help them stretch their souls in new assignments.
Jesus gave people truths and tasks that were matched to their capacity. He did not overwhelm them with more than they could manage, but gave them enough to challenge them.
Christ was the greatest teacher who ever taught. He made known the greatest truths ever learned. He revealed the meaning of life, the way to success, and the secret of happiness. And all that he taught was focused on eternal life. He preached no telestial program. He was too busy to preach a terrestrial way of life. His whole message was focused on celestial life. It was his constant theme and he followed it explicitly.
His example showed us that isn't enough to simply abstain from temptation and wrong-doing. We must fill our lives with good acts and service to others.
The Savior never gave expecting to receive. He gave freely and lovingly, and his gifts were of indescribable value. He performed miracles. At his command the blind were given sight and the deaf heard. He gave cleanliness to the unclean, wholeness to the infirm, and breath to the lifeless. Yet he was never concerned about getting credit for the good he did. It's amazing how much good can be done when you don't care who gets the credit.
He taught us to use our talents. God has given us talents and time, with opportunities to use and develop them in his service. He therefore expects much of us, his privileged children. The parable of the talents is a brilliant summary of the many scriptural passages outlining promises for the diligent and penalties for the slothful.
By his own example, he taught us that we must endure to the end. Having received the necessary saving ordinances -- baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, temple ordinances and sealings -- we must live the covenants made. We must endure in faith. No matter how brilliant was the service rendered by a bishop or primary president or other person, if he falters later in his life and fails to live righteously "to the end," the good works he did all stand in jeopardy.
He showed that difficult situations do not relieve us of responsibility. No one should deny the importance of circumstances, yet in the final analysis the most important thing is how we react to the circumstances. We know he prayed for another way to bring about the atonement, but he nevertheless said that he was willing to give up his life for us if necessary. Christ then submitted to the crucifixion with dignity, mastery and control.
He brought to pass the Atonement, thereby ransoming mankind from the death caused by the fall of Adam as well as the death resulting from our own disobedience.
At every opportunity we should ask ourselves, "What would Jesus do in this situation?" and then be more courageous to act upon the answer. We must follow Christ, in the best sense of the word. We must be about his work as he was about his Father's. We should try to be like him.
The cultivation of Christ like qualities is a demanding and relentless task. It is not for the seasonal worker or for those who will not stretch themselves. Perfection is achieved by abolishing weakness. A famous sculptor once said that there was nothing in his art except just cutting away the marble that he didn't want there. And so there's nothing to attaining perfection either, except one by one, removing all the obstacles and the obstructions that pollute it.
Christ has set the standard for what we should be like and what we should do. While many men have admirable qualities, there is only one man who ever walked the earth who was without sin. This Jesus is our exemplar and has commanded us to follow in His steps.
The only measure of true greatness is how close a man can become like Jesus. Consider your heroes. Think of the individuals who impress you most for the way they live their lives. My guess is that your heroes, the people you respect most, have attained some measure of perfection in emulating Christ. Your heroes most likely live the law of chastity; they have a clean mind and heart. They are unselfish. They serve the church, community, and other people. They are forgiving and carry no bitterness. They are humble and free from arrogance, rebellion, and envy. They consistently make good choices.
Those who are greatest are those who are most like Christ, and those who love Him most will be most like Him. Those individuals whom we most love, admire, and respect as leaders of the human family are so regarded by us precisely because they embody, in many ways, the qualities that Jesus had in his life and in his leadership.
We are not yet perfect as Jesus was, but unless those about us can see us striving and improving, they will not be able to look to us for example, and they will see us as less than fully serious about the things to be done.
Each of us has more opportunities to do good and to be good than we ever use. These opportunities lie all around us. Righteousness requires action. People tend often to measure their righteousness by the absence of wrong acts in their lives, as if passivity were the end of being. But Christ's example shows us we should grow and progress and to serve others.
We must remember that those we meet in parking lots, offices, elevators, and elsewhere are that portion of mankind God has given us to love and to serve. It will do us little good to speak of the general brotherhood of mankind if we cannot regard those who are all around us as our brothers and sisters.
A man can ask no more important question in his life than that which Paul asked: "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" (See Acts 9:6.) A man can take no greater action than to pursue a course that will bring to him the answer to that question and then to carry out that answer. What would the Lord Jesus Christ have us do? He has answered that question by saying, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48), and, "Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily, I say unto you, even as I am" (3 Nephi 27:27).
Some men are willing to die for their faith, but they are not willing to fully live for it. Christ both lived and died for us. By walking in His steps and through His atonement, we can gain the greatest gift of all -- eternal life.