Imitation of Christ: Classic Devotions in Today's Language

Imitation of Christ: Classic Devotions in Today's Language

by James Watkins, James N. Watkins


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Imitation of Christ: Classic Devotions in Today's Language by James Watkins, James N. Watkins

The timeless classic, The Imitation of Christ, is updated into modern English and arranged topically for daily devotions.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781617956768
Publisher: Worthy Publishing
Publication date: 01/12/2016
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 804,592
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

James Watkins is the author of sixteen books including Death & Beyond, which won a Campus Life “Book of the Year” award, and The Why Files series, which was honored with a Christian Retailer’s Choice award. He serves as associate acquisitions editor at Wesleyan Publishing House (Indianapolis) and has won four Evangelical Press Association awards for editing. He is a graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University with a BA in Theology and his graduate work is in communications at Ball State University and Purdue University.

Thomas à Kempis has been a best-selling author for more than five hundred years. He was a priest, monk, and writer who lived in obscurity in 14th Century Germany. His words have changed lives for over 500 years.

Read an Excerpt

The Imitation Of Christ

Classic Devotions In Today's Language

By Thomas À Kempis, James N. Watkins

Worthy Publishing Group

Copyright © 2015 James N. Watkins
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61795-676-8



* * *

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ.

Ephesians 5:1–2

The Disciple

These are the words of Christ: "If you follow me, you won't have to walk in darkness" (John 8:12). They teach us how thoroughly we must imitate his life and character if we desire true understanding and freedom from our own deceptive hearts and minds. And so, may we earnestly study and meditate on the life of Jesus Christ.

Christ's teachings surpass all of the great holy writers of the past. If we have his Spirit, we find spiritual nourishment. Unfortunately there are many people who frequently hear the words of Christ but have little desire to follow them and so do not have the mind of Christ.

What does it profit us to engage in deep discussions about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit if we lack humility and are displeasing to God? Truly, deep and profound words do not make a person holy and upright, but a good life is what makes us dear to God. I would rather experience sorrow for my ungodly thoughts and actions than simply be skillful in defining "repentance." If we know the whole Bible and the teachings of all the philosophers, what does all this benefit us without the love and grace of God? It is completely futile unless we love God and serve only him. This is the highest wisdom: to put earthly values behind us and to reach forward to the heavenly kingdom.

It is futile to strive for earthly things and to trust in riches that will perish. It is futile to desire honors and lift up ourselves. It is futile to be ruled by the desires of our physical body, for this will only bring misery in the end. It is futile to desire a long life and to care little for a good life. It is futile to concentrate on the here and now and not look forward to the things which are eternal. It is futile to love temporary things and not strive toward eternal joy.

Always keep this saying in mind: "The eye is not satisfied with visible things. Neither is the ear content with hearing." And so, let us strive to turn our hearts from the love of things that are visible and concentrate on the things that are invisible. If we are controlled by our own physical desires, we will corrupt our conscience and destroy the grace of God.

Book 1 Chapter 1



* * *

"I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me."

John 14:6

The Christ

My friend, the more you let go of your own desires, the more you will become like me. When you have no desire for outward things, only then you will enjoy internal peace. When you stop living for yourself, you will grow into union with me. I want you to learn perfect self-denial and to live as I desire without disagreeing or complaining. "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). Without my way you cannot go. Without my truth you cannot know. And without my life you cannot grow. I am the way which you must follow, the truth you must believe, and the life for which you must hope. I am the way never changing, the truth never failing, and the life never ending. I am the straight way, the supreme truth and the true, blessed, and uncreated life. "And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32). Only then will you enjoy eternal life.

"If you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17). If you want to know the truth, believe in me. If you want to be perfect, sell all that you have. If you want to be my disciple, deny yourself. If you want to possess the blessed life, give up the life you now have. If you want to be exalted in heaven, humble yourself in this world. If you want to reign with me, bear the cross with me, for only the servants of the cross find the blessed life and true light.

The Disciple

O Lord Jesus, for as much as your life was righteous and despised by the world, may I imitate you in despising the world, for "students are not greater than their teacher, and slaves are not greater than their master" (Matthew 10:24). Let your servant model your life, because in it is salvation and true holiness. Anything I read or hear besides it does not refresh me or give me delight.

The Christ

"Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them" (John 14:21). They will sit down with me in my Father's kingdom.

The Disciple

O Lord Jesus, as you have said and promised, please let it be so. And help me to prove myself worthy. I have received the cross from your hands. I have carried it, even as you have laid it upon me, and I will continue to carry it until I die. Truly the life of a devoted servant is the cross, but it leads to paradise. I have begun the journey of the cross. May I not turn back nor leave it.

Come, my brothers and sisters, let us go forward together. Jesus will be with us. For Jesus' sake, we have taken up this cross. For Jesus' sake, let us persevere as we carry it. He is our leader and example. He will help us carry it. Look! Our king enters in before us, and he will fight for us. Let us follow bravely, fearing no terror. Let us be prepared to die bravely in battle. Let us not be dishonored by fleeing from the cross.

Book 3 Chapter 56



* * *

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice — the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Romans 12:1-2

The Disciple

"Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O LORD" (1 Chronicles 29:11). I desire to offer myself up to you as a freewill offering: continually yours forever. "I have watched your people offer their gifts willingly and joyously" (1 Chronicles 29:17). So I offer myself to you today to be your servant forever — in humble submission and with the sacrifice of perpetual praise.

Lord, I lay before you all the sins and offences that I have committed from the day when I was first able to sin until this hour. Please consume and burn every sin with the fire of your love and mercy. And may you cleanse all the stains of my sins and purify my conscience from all guilt. Restore me to your favor, which by sinning I have lost. Fully forgive all my sins and mercifully grant to me your peace.

What can I do concerning my sins except humbly confess them, regret them, and unceasingly plead for your pardon? I ask for your grace so you may hear me when I stand before you, O my God. All my sins displease and grieve me. I will regret them as long as I live. I earnestly desire to repent truly and to make restitution as far as I can. Forgive me, O God. Forgive my sins for your holy name's sake. Save my soul, which you have redeemed with your precious blood. See, I commit myself to your mercy, I resign myself to your hands. Deal with me — not according to my selfishness and sinfulness — but according to your loving-kindness.

I also offer to you all my goodness, though it is so little and imperfect. Please mend and purify me, making me pleasing and acceptable in your sight. May I constantly be drawn toward your holy perfection. In addition, please bring this lazy and useless creature that I am to a happy and blessed end.

I ask you, with all the sincerity, to provide for every need of my parents, friends, brothers, sisters, and all who are dear to me and that you love. May they sense they are being assisted by your grace, enriched by your comfort, protected from dangers, freed from pains, and delivered from all evils. May they joyfully give you abundant thanks.

I also pray for those who have injured me for no reason, have made me sad, have spoken evil against me, or have caused me any loss or displeasure. And please pardon me for all the times I have knowingly or ignorantly made others sad, disturbed, burdened, and scandalized by my words or deeds. Take away, O Lord, from our hearts all suspicion, resentment, anger, conflicts, and whatever harms and diminishes love between all people. Have mercy, Lord, on those who beg for your mercy. Give grace to the needy. And make us worthy to enjoy your grace and go forward to life eternal. Amen.

Book 4 Chapter 9



* * *

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me."

Matthew 16:24

The Disciple

Jesus has many lovers of his heavenly kingdom but few bearers of his cross. He has many seekers of comfort but few willing to face troubles and trial. He finds many companions at his table but few with him in fasting. Many desire to rejoice with him, but few are willing to undergo adversity for his sake. Many follow Jesus that they may eat of his bread, but few are willing to drink of the cup of his passion. Many are astonished at his miracles, but few follow after the shame of his cross. Many love Jesus so long as no troubles happen to them. Many praise him and bless him, so long as they receive comforts from him. But if Jesus hides himself and seems to withdraw from them for even a little while, they immediately begin complaining or feel a great sense of dejection.

But those who love Jesus for Jesus' sake — and not for the comforts he gives to them — praise him in all suffering and sorrow just as they do in the greatest blessings. And if he should never give them another blessing, they would nevertheless continue to always praise him and give him thanks.

Oh, how powerful is the pure love of Jesus — unmixed with any material benefits or love of self! Shouldn't all those constantly seeking his blessing be called mercenaries? Don't those who are always seeking their own gain and advantage show themselves to be lovers of themselves more than lovers of Christ? Who can be found who is willing to serve God altogether for no earthly benefit?

Rarely is anyone so spiritual as to be free from all selfish thoughts? Who can find a person truly poor in spirit and free from the love of created things? People may give away all their goods, yet that is nothing. They may do many good deeds to attempt restitution for their evil deeds, but that is still a small thing. And though one may understand all knowledge, that is still far from perfection. And even if we have great virtue and zealous devotion, there is still much lacking in each of us.

Yes, one thing is the most necessary. What is it then? To give up all things, to reject all self-love, and to completely do all that we know to be required of God himself. Let us who serve Christ not feel highly esteemed, but know what the Truth has pronounced: "In the same way, when you obey me you should say, 'We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty'" (Luke 17:10). Then we will know we are truly poor, naked in spirit, and able to say with the psalmist, "Turn to me and have mercy, for I am alone and in deep distress" (Psalm 25:16). Nevertheless, no people are richer, stronger, freer than those who know how to give unselfishly and be lowly in their own eyes.

Book 2 Chapter 11



* * *

The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:18

The Disciple

This seems a hard saying to many: "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me" (Matthew 16:24). But do not fear, for the cross leads to heaven. In the cross is health, in the cross is life, in the cross is protection from enemies, in the cross is heavenly delight, in the cross is strength of mind, in the cross is joy of the spirit, in the cross is the height of good deeds, in the cross is holy living. There is no health of the soul nor hope of eternal life except in the cross.

So, we must take up our cross and follow Jesus. Only then, will we enter into eternal life. He went before us bearing his cross and died for us on the cross, so that we would bear our crosses. So, if we die to ourselves for him, we will also live with him. And if we participate in his sufferings, we will also participate in his glory.

Everything depends on the cross, and everything is conditioned on dying. There is no other way to life, truth, and inward peace except in the way of the cross and of daily self-sacrifice. Then, no matter what we seek or desire, we will find it. We will find no higher way above nor safer way below than the way of the holy cross. So, whether we suffer willingly or unwillingly, we take up the cross.

Sometimes we will feel forsaken by God. Sometimes we will be annoyed with our neighbor, or more often be frustrated and impatient with ourselves. Still, we cannot be delivered nor eased by any remedy or comfort. We must bear the cross for as long as God determines. He will allow us to suffer troubles without comfort, so we must submit ourselves fully to it, for by trials and troubles we will be made more humble. People do not understand in their own hearts the suffering of Christ so well as the ones who are suffering themselves. The cross, therefore, is always ready and waiting for us. We cannot flee from it. If we turn above, below, outward, or inward, we will still find the cross. We must yield patiently to it if we are to have internal peace and gain the everlasting crown.

If we willingly bear the cross, it will bear us. If we bear it unwillingly, we will greatly increase the weight and make it a burden for ourselves. We must bear it. And if we refuse one cross, there is no doubt we will encounter another cross — far heavier.

Don't think we can escape what no mortal has been able to avoid. Which of the saints in the world has lived without the cross and troubles and trial? Not even Jesus Christ, our Lord, lived one hour of his life without the anguish of his cross. "And [Jesus] said, 'Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day'" (Luke 24:46).

The whole life of Christ was a cross and martyrdom, so why do we chase after relaxation and joyous living? If we desire to avoid suffering, we are wrong, for this whole mortal life is full of miseries and circled with crosses. And the higher people advance in the spirit, the heavier the crosses they will often find. The sorrow of feeling Christ's banishment increases with the strength of his love.

But people who are afflicted like this are not without refreshment or comfort, because as they bear Christ's cross they feel themselves becoming more Christ-like. For while they willingly submitted themselves to it, every burden of troubles and trial is turned into an assurance of divine comfort. The more their bodies are tested with pain, the more their spirit is strengthened mightily by inward grace. Often, they are so greatly comforted that they begin to desire troubles and adversity. Because of the love they feel in suffering the cross as Christ did, they would not choose to be free from sorrow and troubles. This is not the natural reaction of humans! This is the grace of Christ. It has such power and energy in the weak flesh, that what a human would naturally hate and flee, actually draws them to the cross through the power of the Spirit.

It is not in our nature to bear the cross, to love the cross, to bring our bodies into subjection, to flee from honors, to bear criticism meekly, to discipline ourselves, to bear all adversities and losses, and to desire no prosperity in this world. If we look inside ourselves, we will find none of this. But if we trust the Lord, endurance will be given to us from heaven, and the world and our bodily desires will obey our commands. If we are armed with faith, we will not even fear our adversary, the devil. We must suffer many trials and troubles to enter into the kingdom of God.

Book 2 Chapter 12



* * *

Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him, your roots will grow down into God's love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.

Ephesians 3:17-18

The Disciple

"All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort" (2 Corinthians 1:3). I give thanks to you, Lord. You refresh me with your own comfort — even when I am unworthy of any comfort. I bless and glorify you continually through your only Son and the Holy Spirit, the comforter, forever and ever. O Lord God, holy lover of my soul, when you come into my heart my entire being rejoices. You are myglory and the joy of my heart. You are my hope and my refuge in the day of my trouble.

But because I am still weak in love and imperfect in virtue, I need to be strengthened and comforted by you. So, you often visit me and instruct me with your holy discipline. Deliver me from evil passions, and cleanse my heart from all unholy desires. May I be healed and thoroughly cleansed within so I may be ready to love, strong to suffer, and steadfast to endure.


Excerpted from The Imitation Of Christ by Thomas À Kempis, James N. Watkins. Copyright © 2015 James N. Watkins. Excerpted by permission of Worthy Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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The Imitation of Christ: Classic Devotions in Today's Language 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
DFess More than 1 year ago
I have read The Imitation of Christ before, but I can't remember understanding it as clearly as I did with Jim Watkins' paraphrase. He has done a valuable service to the church to rework this translation. Considering that it is a translation (done in the 1800s) from another language, it is possible that Jim's text, while a paraphrase, may be closer to the meaning of the original. Certainly it is far more readable! I was prepared for a touch of irrelevancy, but I find that the spiritual issues that A Kempis wrestled with in a much earlier era relate so closely to my own that I feel a kinship with him. Again, I have to thank Jim's paraphrase for that. The fact that the book is organized by subject and divided up into daily readings (forcing me to ponder A Kempis' words in small bites) also has a lot to do with it. Jim Watkins has breathed new life into an old classic, and I truly appreciate his work. It's a devotional I expect to use regularly. ======= NOTE: To comply with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: I selected this book to review and received it free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. =======
lhj313 More than 1 year ago
I want a devotional with meat on it. One that makes me think deeply about Christ. About my life. About what my heart, soul, and spirit should be spending time meditating on. There have been popular devotionals that others love, but I cannot seem to find any sort of depth in them. This one, however, may be small and some of the entries quite short, but nearly all of them make me think. They convict me of wrong thinking and actions. They remind me where my mind and heart should be focusing. And what really surprises me is how this was written so long ago and yet A Kempis faced the same issues we do. I guess I foolishly presume a man of God who lived centuries ago would not struggle with worldly distractions. He did not have technology. And yet he struggled. That's only one example. This is my daily go-to book. My only complaint is that it's not longer. That the shorter entries are as short as they are. This book makes me hungry for more wisdom. It brings things from Scripture that I know, but need the light shed in a way that re-illuminates the truth of Christ. I cannot recommend this highly enough.
QuietSpirit More than 1 year ago
In his latest literary undertaking, James Watkins compiled and edited ninety devotional readings, taking Thomas A Kempis’ classic devotional, updating the language, bringing each of these devotions into modern wording. Each devotion begins with a scripture passage from the New Living Testament. The format of this book is a conversation between the Christ and the disciple, and the reader, keeping the style of Thomas A Kempis. When the essay starts with ‘The Christ,’ the reader is instructed in ways to follow Christ. Several of the passages that start with ‘The Disciple,’ come across as prayer like. Jim Watkin’s rendition of this classic book impresses me. I choose one devotional book to read during a year. I have chosen to study The Imitation of Christ during 2016. I would recommend this devotional book to anyone in laity leadership positions who want to grow closer to the Lord. In addition, this volume would make a valuable addition to the personal library of seminary students, as well as pastors in pulpit ministry. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, Worthy Inspired at the direction of the editor. All they asked of me was to give an unbiased review.