It has been said that Thomas used or alluded to more than a thousand Scriptures. Often his words read like the Proverbs. His work therefore should not be read like a novel, but in short segments, allowing time for reflection and meditation. I have used The Imitation of Christ as a devotional, reading only short passages at each sitting. I’ve discovered that with every new read, the Spirit brings new things to my mind that I need to consider to be a better follower of Jesus.
For example: Do you remember Satan’s question of God concerning Job: “Does Job fear God for nothing?” (Job 1:9). His charge was straightforward: “Look at all the blessings you have given Job, what man or woman would not serve You given this level of rewards?” (my paraphrase).
Having read this passage many times, I never asked myself the question: “Do I serve God for His blessings?” But then I read Kempis: “Where can one be found who is willing to serve God for nothing?” I had to stop and take stock of my attitude toward God. Do I serve Him and love Him for who He is, or for what He has promised me? I did not like the answer that crawled up from the slimy abyss known as my fallen nature. Thank you, Thomas, for pointing out to me the need to love God for Himself, for who He is, for what He has done, for loving me first, expecting nothing in return.
There are a number of translations available for this classic. I found the Pure Gold Classic version by Harold J. Chadwick (Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1999) to be excellent. This version includes the notes and Scripture references at the end of each chapter. Kempis, being Roman Catholic, occasionally makes reference to doctrines of the Catholic Church that are contrary to Protestant views. But most of the material is about becoming like Christ, and the Pure Gold Classic version focuses on translating these passages so they are relevant to all Christians regardless of specific doctrines. Chadwick says: “It is doubtful if there is any great Christian leader, past or present, Roman Catholic or Protestant, who has not read The Imitation of Christ.”
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