Let Us, as His Dear Children, Imitate God
Dear Father in Heaven, as I enter into Your presence this morning with my fellow believers, may I do so conscious of Your desire that I love them as Christ has loved me. Jesus humbled Himself and gave up His life in order to give me life and enhance my future. May I humble myself and seek to give of myself so that the lives of others may indeed be blessed by my words and actions. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
The LORD sent Jeremiah to announce judgment upon the people of Judah with the hope that they would repent of their sins and walk according to His law. The LORD’s message angered the people. They wanted to kill Jeremiah, but he warned them that they would be shedding innocent blood and incur even greater wrath from God.
As Jesus cast out demons, He was accused by His adversaries of being in league with the devil. He explained that the devil would not work against himself. He also informed them that if their hearts were not filled with the Spirit of God, the devil would certainly occupy them. Jesus concluded by saying that those who treasure God’s Word are truly blessed!
Text: Ephesians 5:1-10
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know,that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.
In Christ Jesus, God’s Son through whose blood we have been redeemed, dear friends:
It has often been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! In my children’s sermon I asked our little ones whom they would most want to be like when they grew up. In other words, whom would they like to imitate as they grow older? While that might be an interesting question for each of us to ponder, the thrust of our text, of course, is that we are to “be imitators of God.” That was and has always been, after all, God’s intention for human beings.
God created our original parents, Adam and Eve, “in His image” (cf. Gen. 1:26-27). He entrusted to them the control of His newly created universe (cf. Gen. 1:28), and it was His desire that as the crown of His creation they would reflect His essence. He planned to walk with them and talk to them on a regular basis (cf. Gen. 3:8). God’s desire and plan, however, were thwarted when Adam and Eve chose to rebel against Him. They lost the perfection of that divine image and became by nature enemies of God (cf. Rom. 8:7). Instead of radiating love they became selfish and loathed to accept responsibility for their own actions, blaming others to escape the truth about themselves (cf. Gen. 3:12-13). My dear friends, we are by nature the children of Adam and Eve! We have inherited their sinful condition, and our natural selfishness plagues our every relationship here on this earth.
Thanks be to God, however, that His reaction to Adam and Eve and to you and me was not one of wrath and destruction, but rather is one of love and redemption. God promised to send a Savior—the Seed of the woman to crush Satan’s head (cf. Gen 3:15) and to restore our relationship with Him. As the apostle Paul informed the Corinthians: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:19). By faith we have been called out of Satan’s domain and ushered into God’s kingdom. We are by grace now His children, and God would fulfill His original desire both for us and through us. LET US, therefore AS HIS DEAR CHILDREN, IMITATE GOD, first of all, by walking in love and, secondly, by walking in light!
The apostle Paul opens our text by saying: “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.” Paul urges us AS HIS DEAR CHILDREN to IMITATE GOD! How are we to do so? He says, “Walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us.” First of all, we ought to note that God’s desire for us takes the form of an imperative—a command to keep on loving! How ought we love? We are to love like Christ—selflessly, sacrificially, and completely…expending ourselves for the good and benefit of others. Just as Christ has loved us, so we are to love others. We are not to love them because they are loveable, or when and if they love us back, but rather we are to love them unconditionally. We are to love them period. That may well be hard to do and will no doubt often prove difficult to do, but that is what our God and His Son did for us! Think of Jesus being nailed to the cross and then praying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Lk. 23:34). Paul described in summary fashion that love to the Romans, when he wrote: “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” (Rom. 5:8) My dear friends, God calls upon us to reflect and radiate a love like His own!
Why will we want to do that? We will want to do that, because that is how the Spirit moves us to respond! Paul writes that when we love as God loves us, that love is “an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” Do you want to say thank-you to God and to Jesus for His love? Do you want to respond appropriately to the suffering and death of Jesus on Calvary’s cross? Then keep on loving others as God and Christ have loved you…even when it is hard! My favorite Lenten hymn is “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” In its powerful final stanza, what do we sing?
If an appropriate tribute to God and Jesus is “my soul, my life, (and) my all,” does that not also include my best effort to keep on loving those people in my life who are at times less than loveable and who at time fail to love me back, or who even hurt me badly by their insensitive words and unloving actions? Of course, it does!
Paul reminds us that true and ongoing love will eliminate sinful choices from our lives—choices which would bring our membership in His kingdom into question: “But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” Note that almost every sin that Paul here mentions is of a sexual nature. Satan has successfully made love and sex equivalent in our culture and thereby has polluted both and sown confusion within our popular culture. In this way Satan deprives us human beings of dignity and destroys any hope of experiencing the full blessings God would bestow upon us through love, sexuality, and marriage. God, who is love and who created our sexuality to be expressed within marriage, calls us back to His original intention—one of purity in thought, in word, and in deed so that we might experience true intimacy within marriage and His rich blessing upon all of our lives. God does not want us to cheapen our sexuality by buying and selling it, by prostituting it for brief moments of pleasure. He does not want us to wallow in the verbal gutter, desensitizing our minds and polluting our hearts. Rather, Paul says, we are to be giving thanks to God for His love, for our opportunities to enrich the lives of others with our love, and for the enrichment the love of others brings us!
My dear friends, God is serious about promoting and preserving true love. Paul writes: “For this you know,that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” Sexual sins begin in the mind and in the heart. Selfishness covets the pleasures God reserves for others, and such covetousness is in reality a form of idolatry as we place our sinful wants and desires above our God. Walking in sin, rather than walking in love places one outside the kingdom of God! If any of us here today have been caught up in such sins, let us pray that the Spirit leads us to repentance and renewed faith. Indeed, LET US AS HIS DEAR CHILDREN, IMITATE GOD by walking in love!
LET US do so as well by walking in light! Paul concludes: “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.”
We live in a world filled with darkness. Read the papers. Listen to the evening news. What do you learn? Are you generally uplifted by what is reported, or does the news tend to depress you? Consider our culture today. Again is it an uplifting culture that emphasizes solid biblical virtues and encourages people to practice love and self-sacrifice in order to advance the welfare of others, or does it tend to feature the worst by emphasizing the pursuit of riches and self-gratification? But what is of even greater consequence is this—ask yourself whether or not you and your family are being unduly influenced by our culture today. If the answer is, “yes,” or you are uncertain, then take to heart Paul’s warning. Do not allow yourself to be deceived by Satan, this world, or your own sinful flesh. God is serious! His wrath “comes upon the sons of disobedience.”
I was visiting with a young man in the Blue Earth County Jail this past Wednesday. He is a troubled young man, but a young man who has been attending our Friday evening Bible Study on a regular basis and is genuinely seeking to draw closer to God. I like him very much. During our visit, he was speaking of how weary he was of all of the negative issues confronting him in his life and that of his girlfriend. He did report that something about which we had prayed had turned out well, and he was so thankful to God for that. Yet, he explained that he had been living with his girlfriend for four years, and they had experienced many troubles during that time. I asked if I might share with him a pertinent Scripture, and he consented. I then shared with him this verse, asking him to listen carefully to what God was saying to him: “All of you should honor marriage. You should keep the marriage bed pure. God will judge the person who commits adultery. He will judge everyone who commits sexual sins” (Heb. 13:4 - NIRV). I then asked him, “Do you think God might be allowing these issues to arise because He is judging your choices in life?” I commended this young man for seeking to know the Lord but then encouraged him to rectify his living situation and offered to work with him and his girlfriend, so that together they might “walk as children of light” and experience God’s rich blessings.
My dear friends, Paul urges us: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:1-2). God calls upon us to imitate Him in our lives. How are we to do so? We are to do so, by walking in light! That involves seeking, developing, and demonstrating “the fruits of the Spirit…goodness, righteousness, and truth.” That involves evaluating the culture around us, as well as thinking about the words that flow from our lips and the actions undertaken by our hands, and “finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.” When we do that we honor God, and you may rest assured that He will then honor and bless us. God after all has made this specific promise to us: “Those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed” (1 Sam. 2:30).
Is this easy? Certainly not! The world will hate us! Paul warns: “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution!” (2 Tim. 3:12) Will we always find the love and support we want even from our Christian family members and friends? Unfortunately not, yet Paul encourages us: “As the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another; if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts…and be thankful!” (Col. 3:12-15) My dear friends,LET US AS HIS DEAR CHILDREN listen and then IMITATE GOD! Amen.