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Imitators of God

Imitators of God

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God, as a fragrant aroma” (Ephesians 5:1-2).

Be Imitators of God

My initial response after first reading this command from God was, “Are you sure?”  “Are you sure I am capable of that?”  Because such seemed so far beyond my abilities.  Of course God is not expecting us to be all-powerful or all-knowing as He is.  Rather, in the context the realm in which we are to imitate Him is defined.  We are to be unselfish and love as He loved (5:2).  We are to be kind and forgiving as He forgives (4:32).  We are to be truthful, as He has been truthful to us (4:25).   In like manner, Jesus spoke of us loving our enemies as God loves His (Matthew 5:48). 

Too Difficult?

If I am tempted to think that God’s expectation of me here is unrealistic, then I am actually claiming that I know myself better than my Creator and Designer knows me.  In addition, why would I think that I cannot imitate God when the fact is that when in sin I was imitating the Devil, and doing it very well (Ephesians 2:1-3).  Then I needed to ask myself, “So what is the alternative?”  The alternative is being less than truthful, or more to the point, being a liar (4:25).  To be ruled by my anger, instead of wisely managing this powerful emotion (4:26).  Of working and living for myself, instead of thinking about and helping others (4:28).  Using my tongue to tear down and hurt, instead of using the priceless gift of language to build up and heal (4:29).   And of spending my valuable life being a prisoner of my own grudges and bitterness (4:31-32).

I also needed to remember, that while I have a physical body that has definite limitations, I am actually a spirit, and God is the Father of my spirit (Hebrews 12:9).  So while the devil tries to convince us that we have very little in common with God, the opposite is actually true.  We were made in His image (Genesis 1:26) and have a lot in common with Him.  When I remember that I am actually a spirit that just happens to have a body, all of a sudden imitating the moral nature of my Father is no longer viewed as some sort of impossible task.

As a Fragrant Aroma: 5:2

Jesus’ death on the one hand was cruel, without mercy, ugly and horrible.  Yet His willingness to set aside His privileges, put our needs ahead of His own comfort, and die for our sins, was a wonderful and beautiful mindset and an amazing act of mercy.  To God, such an act of self-sacrifice is viewed as a fragrant aroma.

Not Even a Hint

“But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints” (Ephesians 5:3).

The term “saints” at the end of the verse should remind us that we are to be much more than “just forgiven”.  We are surrounded by a denominational world in which many of their adherents have been told that we are saved by grace or faith alone and that there is no need to live a godly life.  That it is all grace and that there is nothing we are to do as a result.  Yet this verse and many others declares the exact opposite.  Consider Titus 2:11-12 “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age”.  In contrast to the voices in the popular denominational culture, in the word of God, the grace of God never says, “You can remain in sin and still end up saved”.

  • Remember, this is the letter that speaks of not being saved by works (Ephesians 2:8-9), yet stresses the need to live a godly life (5:3-6).
  • This letter also stresses the importance of baptism (4:4).
  • It speaks of something that was predetermined (1:4), yet also clearly warns God’s people about the danger of being morally careless and thus ending up lost in the end (5:6).

“Not a Hint”: 5:3

In contrast to this clear command, I often find religious people justifying or excusing their sins by saying:

  • “Well, no one is perfect”.
  • “We are all sinning, all the time, in ways that we don’t even see”.
  • “Grace will just cover all that stuff in the end”.
  • “God knows my heart”.
  • “My personal life doesn’t have anything to do with my faith”.
  • “It is too difficult to live as the Bible says in our modern and evil world”.

Yet what if we took these verses seriously?  What if we really believed that even a hint was unacceptable?  That one filthy word was one too many?

“Let no one deceive you”: 5:6

The truthful of the matter is that even a little immorality, a little impurity, a little greed, will completely undo the walking in love described in the previous verses.  Or, another way to put it is that one cannot be truthful, have their anger under control, abstain from bitterness, serve others, and at the same time harbor “some” sin.   This also explains why someone people will say, “Well I tried to live the Christian life but it did not work”.  One common reason that it did not work was that while attempting to put on the new man (4:24), they were equally attempting to hold on to certain aspects of the old man at the same time.

“With Empty Words”: 5:6

In the world there are many empty arguments, yet the definition of empty words would be any words or combination of words that present an argument, claim or view of the world that is contrary to what the Bible teaches.  Such words are empty because they not only tend to fall apart in this life, but they will completely fall apart at the judgment.  God will not honor what those words claimed to promise.

“Immorality, Impurity, Greed”: 5:3,5

Why these three categories or sins, or what do these three things have in common?  May I suggest that they are the complete opposite of how Jesus lived (5:2).  “Jesus gave Himself for us”.  Sexual immorality (any form), impurity and greed have nothing to do with the healthy giving of oneself, rather when one is in that mindset, all you do it take.  You are not giving life to people, rather you are taking life from people.

“Who is an idolator”: 5:5

One point of clarification here.  Paul is not saying that one must be sexually immoral, impure and greedy in order to qualify as an idolator.  Rather, he is saying that being involved in any one of those sins means that we are presently worshipping and serving something or someone other than God.  The sexually immoral man or woman is placing physical desire ahead of God, and others.  It is a good reminder that sin will demand our allegiance and our attention.  When we choose to go into a sin, we are equally choosing to become a slave of that desire.  We are choosing to be on call 24/7.  “One time the conversation turned to drugs, at a time when hashish and LSD were just starting to circulate a little, and a prominent local singer….a little order than the rest of us, told us how he had tried heroin once, and would never take it again, because it was so good.  I never forgot the power of those words” (Traveling Music, Neal Peart p. 84).    Such is a good reminder that an initial experience with sin might be very pleasurable, but then you are hooked, and end up being willing to sacrifice everything for your next experience.

Instead Even Expose Them: 5:11

The above comment offers some exposure, and the next quote is another example:  “Adam Savage, one of the hosts of the popular science show MythBusters, recently told a radio audience how he explained pornography to his twin sons: ‘The thing you have to understand, bud, is the internet hates women’.   Savage said he explained the dangers to his sons so they won’t perpetuate the problems: ‘I want him thinking, when he talks to women, ‘I’m one of the good ones’ (World Magazine/Lustful Eyes/March 3rd, 2018).  We need more voices willing to offer such honest exposure.

Mark Dunagan/mdunagan@frontier.com

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