Imitate God

1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Ephesians 5:1-5 ESV

Imitate God. At this point in his letter, Paul issues a lofty and seemingly impossible call to action. And yet, that’s been the theme he has been expressing from the very beginning.  what Paul has been suggesting throughout his letter. In the opening lines of chapter one, Paul reminded his readers that God had chosen them “before the foundation of the world” so that they might “be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:4 ESV). In other words, that they might by holy as He is holy. He prayed that their hearts would be enlightened, so that they might “know what is the hope to which he has called you” (Ephesians 1:18 ESV). Paul wanted them to understand that God had a future in store for them that included their glorification. The day was coming when they would be sin-free and fully righteous. And he assured them of the security of that future by declaring, “God, being rich in mercymade us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4, 5-6 ESV). 

There had been a time when they had been “without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12 ESV). But now they had been “brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13 ESV). They were sons and daughters of God and, as such, they were to emulate and imitate their Heavenly Father. That is why Paul so strongly stressed their new relationship with God.

…you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God… – Ephesians 2:19 ESV

As members of the body of Christ, they were being “being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22 ESV). It was through the mystery of the church that “the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10 ESV). And Paul’s prayer was that they would understand how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is” (Ephesians 3:18 NLT) and “be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God” (Ephesians 3:19 NLT).

Paul had commanded the Ephesians: “let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” (Ephesians 4:23-24 NLT). According to Paul, God had identified the Ephesian believers as His own by placing His Spirit within them (Ephesians 4:30). So, they were to conduct their lives in such a way that they accurately reflected their status as God’s children.  And the greatest expression of their new divine nature was a life marked by Christ-like love.

 Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. – Ephesians 5:2 NLT

Jesus had imitated His Father. In fact, Paul described Jesus as “the visible image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15 NLT). In his second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul described Jesus as “the exact likeness of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4 NLT). And yet, thought Jesus was fully God, He “did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being” (Philippians 2:6-7 NLT). In doing so, Jesus displayed His godly character. He obeyed the will of His Father by displaying the selfless, sacrificial love of His Father.

He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. – Ephesians 5:3 NLT

Jesus always did exactly what His Father commanded Him to do. He gained strength from doing His Father’s will. That’s why He told His disciples, “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work” (John 4:34 NLT). He told the Pharisees, “I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will” (John 5:30 NLT). He declared that He had come down from heaven to do the will of the One who had sent him (John 6:38). In His humanity, Jesus perfectly modeled what it means to imitate God.

“I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.” – John 5:19 ESV

God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son as the sacrifice for the sins of mankind (John 3:16). And Jesus laid down His life willingly, not under coercion.

“The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.” – John 10:17-18 NLT

He was the visible, tangible expression of God’s love. He imitated God by loving as God loved. And Paul calls the Ephesians to “Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ” (Ephesians 5:2 NLT). In a sense, Paul is stating that Christ-likeness equals godliness. To be like the Son is to be like the Father. To imitate Christ is to imitate God, because they are one.

But Paul wants his readers to know what imitating God looks like in everyday life, and he does so by listing those characteristics that display ungodliness.

Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. – Ephesians 5:3-4 NLT

People who display these kinds of qualities don’t look like God. Immorality, impurity, and greed are signs of godlessness, not godliness. They mark the lives of the unrepentant and unredeemed. They are diametrically opposed to a life of selfless, sacrificial love. Immorality involves lust – the desire to satisfy and fulfill selfish passions at the expense of others. Impurity has to do with moral and physical uncleanness. It describes the lives of the unsaved Gentiles.

Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity. – Ephesians 4:18-19 NLT

And greed or covetousness is an insatiable desire for that which has been forbidden by God. In the end, it is a worship of self, which is why, in verse 5, Paul ties covetousness closely to idolatry. To covet another man’s wife is to believe that you deserve what belongs to another. Your passions and preferences take priority over the needs and desires of others. But Paul boldly and unapologetically states that “everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Ephesians 5:5 ESV). Those whose lives are marked by selfishness and self-indulgence were never really redeemed by God. They fail to display the divine nature that Jesus died to make possible. And their unrepentant behavior provides proof that they are unredeemed and still living as enemies of God. And this was not the first time Paul issued this warning against the unrighteous. He wrote the very same thing in his first letter to the church in Corinth.

Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NLT

And he repeated the same warning to the church in Galatia.

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. – Galatians 5:19-21 NLT

Paul is not threatening Christians with the loss of their salvation. He is simply emphasizing the expectation of spiritual transformation in the life of a believer. The indwelling presence of the Spirit of God will produce tangible evidence of a salvation in the form of increasing sanctification or Christ-likeness. The true believer will experience a supernatural transformation of life that shows up actions and attitudes. Their lives will model the character of Christ and, in doing so, will imitate their Heavenly Father.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

 

Proverbs 29b

World Gone Wild.

“When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is joyful.” – Proverbs 29:18 NLT

Take a look around you. The world has gone wild. It has cast off the restraints imposed on it by God by rejecting His Word and His will and refusing to acknowledge Him as God. There are few, if any, restraints to public morality any more. Everything is acceptable, tolerable and normal in society. In the New International Version, this verse reads, “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint.” The idea is that there is no longer any word from God from the lips of the prophets of God. They are no longer speaking because God is no longer talking. Without God’s divine guidance and righteous rules for living, the people literally, “let loose.” They throw caution to the wind and embrace anything and everything as morally acceptable. The mantra, “If it feels good, do it” becomes the rule of the day. Everyone becomes motivated by their own pleasures and desires. Whether God’s restraining hand gets removed or the people simply reject it, the outcome is always the same. There will be unchecked, unrestrained immorality and rebellion against God. They will run wild.

But there is another side to this proverb. It says, “But whoever obeys the law is joyful.” Those who choose to listen to the Word of God and obey it, will find joy. Rather than restrictive, they will find the Word of God restorative and rest-producing. Throughout the Word of God we are given clear indications of what God expects from His people. He does not save us, then allow us to live according to our own standards or some arbitrary set of guidelines set by the majority of our peers. No, God has righteous and holy standards which are designed to guide His people in their daily interactions with Him and with one another. Unlike during the days of the Jews, who were required to try and keep God’s law in order to live righteous lives, as believers we do not obey God’s Word out of some sense of earning favor or brownie points with God. Our righteousness is not based on the effectiveness of our obedience, but on what Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross. We obey because we have been redeemed. We gladly keep God’s law because we love the One who gave it. We obey because we know how much He loves us and wants what is best for us. That is what produces joy.

If we choose to disobey, which we all do at times, we “run wild.” We end up casting off the loving restraints put there by God and choose to live according to our own selfish, self-satisfying standards. We do what is right in our own eyes, not God’s. We become driven by our passions, rather than God’s Word. But God has called us to a life of obedience. He has set His divine rules over the world, not as some kind of cosmic kill-joy, but because He knows what is best. His standards are righteous and right. His rules have a restraining and restorative quality to them. They bring peace and joy. But when they’re ignored, the people run wild.

Father, may we learn to be a people who cherishes Your Word and obeys it. May we recognize the joy found in Your divine standards. We see the world running wild because they have cast off all restraints and rejected Your Word. May we as Your people remain a restraining and restorative factor in society because we value and cherish Your commands. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Proverbs 5c

High Fidelity.

“Drink water from your own well – share your love only with your wife. Why spill the water of your springs in the streets, having sex with just anyone?” – Proverbs 5:15-16 NLT

fidelity: strict observance of promises, conjugal faithfulness

We live in a world where little is certain or sure any more, including moral absolutes. Everyone does what’s right in his own eyes. Tolerance is in, conviction is out. There seem to be no standards of right or wrong, and the idea of putting any kind of expectations on behavior is old-fashioned and intolerant. We are constantly reminded not to try and legislate morality or force our standards on others. So what we end up with is a society drowning in sea of uncertainty.

But God has standards. He has rules and expectations for keeping them. Yes, He is a God of grace, mercy and forgiveness, but none of that diminishes the fact that God is holy and requires His people to be the same. Over in 1 Thessalonians 4:3, Paul reminds us, “God’s will is for you to be holy…” And he goes on to say, “…so stay away from all sexual sin.” A big part of our holiness or separateness, the thing that should make us stand out from the crowd, is the way we behave. Paul continues, “Then each of you will control his own body and live in holiness and honor – not in lustful passion like the pagans who do not know God and his ways. Never harm or cheat a Christian brother in this matter by violating his wife, for the Lord avenges all such sins…God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives” (1 Thessalonians 4:4-7 NLT). Paul is making the same point that Solomon makes in Proverbs 5. We are to live lives of fidelity and faithfulness that shows up in our behavior, both sexually and socially. Men are to be faithful to their wives. Wives are to remain faithful to their husbands. But in our society, that is seen as an antiquated, out-dated virtue that no longer has a place. So adultery is common place and a normal part of everyday life. Infidelity is in. You see it in movies, on TV, in the lives of celebrities, and even in the homes of godly Christian couples. Solomon describes those who embrace this lifestyle as evil, and he says they “will die for lack of self-control” (Proverbs 5:23 NLT). Those who turn their back on fidelity are held captive by their own sins. Their passions control them, causing them to abandon their commitments and default on their faithfulness – to one another and, ultimately, to God.

We have been called to a higher standard – to lives of high fidelity. We are to model what it means to live in holiness, separateness, uniqueness, and distinctiveness. Our lives are to be different, because we have been changed by the life-transforming power of God. We have been given the capacity to live according to a higher calling, and it should show up in our behavior. God’s will for us is holiness. God’s desire for us is fidelity.

Father, give me a growing desire to remain faithful. Not just to You, but in all my relationship. Especially with the wife you have given me. Don’t let me get sucked into believing the lie of the enemy or allow myself to be driven by my passions. May my love for You motivate my desire to obey You and live in fidelity, each and every day of my life, in both my actions and attitudes. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org