Faithlife Sermons

49-30 Imitators of God

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Ephesians 5:1-2

Years ago in Our Daily Bread:
Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations 4271 Just Stay by His Side

4271 Just Stay By His Side

The Christian Herald once carried an article about a senior executive of one of the largest banks in New York City. He told how he had risen to a place of prominence and influence. At first he served as an office boy. Then one day the president of the company called him aside and said, “I want you to come into my office and be with me each day.” The young man replied, “But what could I do to help you, sir? I don’t know anything about finances.”

“Never mind that! You will learn what I want to teach you a lot faster if you just stay by my side and keep your eyes and ears open!” “That was the most significant experience of my life,” said the now-famous banker. “Being with that wise man made me just like him. I began to do things the way he did, and that accounts for what I am today.”

—Our Daily Bread

If we were to summarize the Xn life it would be this: “to be an imitator of God.”
Eph 5:1 Paul uses a term mimetai (mimic) (other trans “follow[ers]”) “copying specific characteristics of another person.” The word in NT doesn’t have the primary meaning of following an example (mimic, copying) but predominantly the idea of discipleship. TDNT “obedience to the word and will of the Lord.” That is the reason then for Paul’s admonition “be imitators—disciples obedient to God.”
NT Concept
Matthew 5:44–45 NASB95
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Matthew 5:48 NASB95
“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
1 Peter 1:15 NASB95
but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;
3 John 11 NASB95
Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God.
Romans 8:29 NASB95
For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;
1 John 3:2 NASB95
Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.
The idea behind imitation is obedience/conformity to God. It is to be like Him and the more you know God the more you know what He wants you to be.
Hebrews 12:3 NASB95
For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Really becomes primary aspiration of Xn living: ultimately imitating life of Christ in all aspects.
Philippians 3:10 NASB95
that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;
Following the right example is key: “no man is completely worthless; he can always serve as a bad example.” The one to follow is God.
We also follow Paul and godly men
1 Corinthians 4:16 NASB95
Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me.
(Exhortation to elders) examples 1 Pt 5:1-3
How can we come to know God (self-revelation)? Scripture points us to the true character of God. As you begin to study Scripture you’ll see God as He is:
Incommunicable Attributes (attributes shared by no one other than God—communicable)
Self-existent: God has no origin and consequently held accountable by no one.
Self-Sufficient: God has no needs outside of Himself and depends on no one.
Eternal: No beginning, no end—always is
There are attributes in which we share (justice, wrath, wisdom, faithfulness, goodness, love, mercy, forgiveness, compassion, tenderness)—and in these things we marvel since God is perfect in them and we fall so far short—it humbles us b/c the more we learn about the character of God the more we see how infinitely higher He is above us and how impossible it is for us to attain to that standard of perfection.
Remember Paul’s prayer Eph 3:16,19
The Motivation for Imitating God
“as beloved children”: we all know how children follow their parents (esp dads) and imitate our behavior. Sometimes good other times bad. Its a general principle of life (and learning) that children imitate parents. As children (loved of God—those on whom He sets saving affection) we ought to imitate our Father and commited to obediently following His word and will.
That God (creator of universe) loves us:
Psalm 8:3–4 NASB95
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him?
His love motivates us to walk worthy of our calling (2 Cor 5:14-15).
The evidence that we are “beloved children” is undeserved forgiveness (4:32).
Romans 5:8 NASB95
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Sending JC as a sacrifice to redeem sinful man brings sinners forgiveness. Calling us to imitate God—since forgiveness is the expression of God’s love, it will be the most convincing proof of our love for one another. Love leads us to forgive and when we understand the enormity of our sin forgiven by God then we forgive others b/c we desire to imitate God.
In Eph 5:1-21 (1st half ch 5) Paul expresses 3 activities of the believer that resemble the character of God. Each one is a definitive statement relating to your activity, lifestyle, conduct, “walk.”
Walk in Love (1-7)
Walk in Light (8-14)
Walk in Wisdom (15-21)
Today: Walk in Love

1. Walk In Love

(the next 2 weeks) 4 parts to Paul’s instruction to walk in love (exhortation, example, expectation, explanation)

A. The Exhortation

“therefore” always connects what has been said with what follows. In the previous context you see the contrasting characteristics of love: 4:31 compare with vs 32
Take note that this instruction is grounded on the foundation of blessings that belong to every Xn: new life (2:4-6), righteousness (1:7), Father (1:5), inheritance (1:11, 14,18), citizenship (2:6,19), Master is JC(1:22-23), freedom (3:12), victory (2:1-7), security (1:13), peace (2:14-18), unity (2:14-18), fellowship (2:19), joy (1:3), HS (2:22), power (3:20), ability (3:16-19), calling (2:10), purpose (3:10-12), love (3:17)—total, absolute unqualified newness. Your life in X at the time of your conversion is new—and God’s love is poured out upon you (Rom 5:5)—and woven thruout Eph (1:4-5; 3:19; 5:2,25).
It is difficult to imagine, in light of all these blessings, why we would choose to be unloving, unforgiving, after all the unconditional, underserved love God demonstrates toward us. Yet, some must have been struggling with being imitators of God’s love or he wouldn’t have said “walk in love...”(vs2).
We have studied the idea of “walk” previously (lifestyles, daily conduct, activity). Here in present tense indicating the believer must continually live in such a way that love becomes that identifying characteristic that you are obedient (imitating) to God.
What is the best measurement of a person’s love? Giving gifts, encouraging words, giving a helping hand? (these can be good ways to show love). The greatest is the ability to forgive.
I want you to think about the measure of God’s love toward you in the depth of forgiveness God has granted to you. Your sin is incalculable as you so often offend God (more than you realize). But God did not treat your offenses against Himself by giving what you deserve (eternal condemnation).
Ephesians 2:4–5 NASB95
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
With rich mercy and great love God graciously applied the sacrifice of His Son to you and your sin was forgiven.
2 words in Gk translate “forgive” aphieme (to send away, let go, to release from legal or moral obligation or consequence, cancel, remit, pardon). It was used of debts that had been cancelled and a prisoner receiving pardon for crimes. the other “charizomai” (to give freely or to treat offending party graciously). Taken together the meaning of forgiveness is more fully understood as God releasing us from debts that could never be repaid.
“How can God cancel the debt of sin without violating His holy/righteous character?” you ask( there’s nothing you can do to earn the favor of God’s forgiveness). But it is made possible b/c of the price of redemption accomplished by His Son at the cross.
1 John 2:12 NASB95
I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake.
Colossians 2:13 NASB95
When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,
Ephesians 1:7 NASB95
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace
To walk in love will be manifest in your ability to forgive.
Luke 7:36-48
Love of the sinner (36-38)
Sin of the Pharisee (vs 39)—He would have slapped her across the face and had his servants kick her out on the street
Parable of Christ (40-47)
The woman responded the way she did b/c she loved him very much. Why? awareness that her sinfulness was great and she sought and found great forgiveness. Your love is directly related to your understanding of the love of God and your ability to forgive is based on the recognition of the great debt of sin you owed.
Paul says “walk in love”—this has always been God’s lofty standard.
Matthew 22:36–40 NASB95
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
Think of the 10 commandments as 10 aspects of love: 1-4 love expressed toward God; 5-10 toward others). Love toward God is loyal (Ex 20:3—places nothing before the true God); Faithful (20:4-6—you’ll never abandon Him); reverent (20:7—you won’t drag down His reputation); Intimate (20:8-11—draws us aside in intimacy).
Love toward each other:
Respectful (20:12)—respects, honors, people (everyone)
Harmless (20:13)—won’t seek harm on others
Pure (20:14)—adultery defiles, love purifies
Unselfish (20:15)—people who love give, not steal
Truthful (20:16)—telling a lie about someone or to someone—you’re trying to hurt them—but true love is truthful
Content (20:17)—a person who loves others is content with his own possessions, and is happy for whatever blessings others receive.
Exhortation is to “walk in love”

B. The Example

“just as...”
Here is a very strong Christological passage: Paul admonishes believers to be imitators of God—walking in love and in the same breath showing the example of the perfect love of God demonstrated by LJC. Jesus is fully God. To follow the example of X is to imitate God b/c Jesus is God.
There are 3 characteristics of Christ’s love that are noteworthy:
Unconditional: so much of our experience of love is conditional and emotional. Marriages fail b/c husbands and wives “fall out of love.” And the world looks at this and finds divorce to be an acceptable solution to the problem. Love is not defined by loving what is lovable but what is by nature very unlovable. This is Christ’s love—unconditional; agape love that always has the best interest of the one loved in mind. 1 Cor 13
Eternal: Since God is eternal (Christ is God) His love is an eternal attribute that remains unchanging and gives a great assurance to those who are beloved. Rom 8:35-39.
Sacrificial: “who gave Himself...” There is no higher expression of love (John 15:13). That is precisely what Christ did as He surrendered Himself to death on the cross. Paul adds that His sacrifice was “a fragrant aroma...” the background of the OT sacrificial system of burnt offerings that rise to God:
Genesis 8:20–21 NASB95
Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. The Lord smelled the soothing aroma; and the Lord said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.
Christ’s loving sacrifice was acceptable to God. And the aroma of that sacrifice is applied to all are being saved by God’s grace:
2 Corinthians 2:15 NASB95
For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing;
This love (unconditional, eternal, sacrificial) was expressed in the Upper Room
John 13:12-16
Your life (in every aspect) is to be pleasing to God. (forgiving) Love is the practical consequence of being saved as the application of being an imitator of God.
Spurgeon tells the story of Alexander the Great: You remember the old classic story of a soldier in Alexander’s army whose name was Alexander, but when the battle was raging he trembled?Then Alexander said to him, “How can you bear the name of Alexander? Drop your cowardice, or drop your name.” So I say to those who are unholy, unclean, impure, unkind, ungracious—be like God, or cease to bear the name of a child of God! What need is there that you should aggravate your sin by pretending to a character which you do not possess! Be like Christ, or be not called a Christian!
Let us be like Christ and walk in love!
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