|THE IMITATED LIFE
Series: A Letter of Grace and Life - Part Nine
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
April 26, 2020
What’s taken place this past week or so points to the reality we live in Humpty Dumpty world. Remember the nursery rhyme?
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses
And all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again!
Despite whatever all the king’s horses and all the king’s men have tried to do - politically - militarily - economically - whatever... there is no way Humpty is getting put back together again.
Our world is cracked - fragmented. These days we’re watching more of the same - conflict between nations and leadership and peoples. And at a time when we all should be coming together - some are - most aren’t.
The Bible tells us that we live in a fallen by sin world. A world under the influence and direction of Satan. A world at war with itself. A world at war with God and God’s people.
As we’ve been studying Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church, Paul has written that God, by His grace, has saved us from being in bondage to all that - from being bound up in our sin and the eternal consequences of our sin and hopelessly caught up in all that brokenness.
Paul has opened up about who we are in Christ. God has, by His grace, given to us new life in Christ. Which is astounding.
Then Paul began writing about what that means in the day-to-day of our lives. Which is the big picture of the part of this letter that we’re in. Paul opening up how we’re to live as those who are in Christ because of God’s grace.
Paul wrote that if we say we’re in Christ then we ought to live like it. Paul wrote that if we’re living that way that’s going to look a whole lot different that what’s going on in the world around us.
So - the big picture of this part of Ephesians - Paul is writing about what it means to live as those who, by God’s grace, are in Christ. What that looks like.
This morning we are at Ephesians 5:1-21. Please follow along as I read for us and then we’ll come back and unpack.
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. 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 become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.
Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Paul begins - verse 1 - “therefore” - which is a reach back to what we’ve seen so far in Paul’s letter.
So, therefore - because of God’s grace and what it means to live day-to-day by God’s grace - verse 1: be imitators of God, as beloved children.
That is the big picture statement of where Paul is going in this section.
“imitator” translates the Greek word we get mimic from. Follow the leader. Fun game. Follow God’s lead. Imitate God.
The big picture here - life in the day-to-day as those in Christ by God’s grace - we are to imitate God.
Which could be slightly intimidating since none of us is God and imitating God is several pay grades above where most of us operate.
Paul writes that we are to imitate God as beloved children. As God’s beloved children.
Meaning that we’re God’s kids who are growing up to look like our Heavenly Father. Which is about God’s grace and God making that happen. Not our making it happen by our own whit, wisdom, and working.
Which is a huge weight off our shoulders. Yes?
Paul goes on - what does that look like - to live imitating God - verse 2 - we are to walk in love
“to walk” is Bible speak for how we live life in the day-to-day of our lives.
“love” translates the Greek word “agape” meaning unconditional love.
Paul’s example of that: as Christ loved [“agaped”] us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Jesus told His disciples - John 15:13: “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends…” (John 15:13,14a NLT)
That’s “agape” love in real time. Jesus’ self-sacrificial love - going to the cross in our place - as an offering - pleasing God - Jesus laying down His life and taking care of what distanced us from God. God’s love demonstrated in real time.
That’s what it means for those of us who are - by God’s grace in Christ - to live in love. That’s our example to imitate.
Which we can’t. The extent and depth and quality of that love is impossible for us.
We need to remember that we’re God’s kids by God’s grace. As God’s kids - let’s remember that living in love is a God thing that God grows us into.
Everyone sigh in relief.
But, we also need to make choices to allow God to do that in us.
Which is where Paul goes in verses 3 to 14. Real time choices we need to make to allow God to make His kind of love - not the world’s Humpty Dumpty version of love - but choices we need to make that open us up to God making His kind of “agape” love real in us and through us.
So, hang on and here we go.
Verse 3: But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named - uttered - among you, as is proper among saints.
Immorality is the Greek word “porneia.”
It’s related to the word we get pornography from. It’s a broad term that covers all kinds of sexual misbehavior from sex outside of marriage to prostitution.
“Impurity” is anything that’s obscene.
“covetousness” in the way Paul uses the word here - has the idea of coveting someone else’s body. Passion - lust for someone as an object of sexual self-gratification.
All that - Paul says - is not “proper among saints.”
“Proper” - literally means that it’s a disgrace. Its defiling. It’s self-destructive behavior that ultimately will destroy you. Definitely not what God has in mind for His people.
These things don’t exist among the saints. Or at least they shouldn’t.
Verse 4: Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, - crude and rude jokes about sex - seemingly innocent flirtations - suggestive behavior - are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
Let’s be clear. Paul isn’t telling us to never talk about sex. “Good Christians don’t talk about that subject.”
What Paul is writing about is the distortions. It’s the inappropriate - worthless - stuff that gets passed around that has absolutely nothing to do with God’s plan for sexuality and marriage. The crude and rude of what we get bombarded with visually and audibly just about everywhere we go or click.
God’s plan for sexuality and marriage is something to give thanks for. God’s plan is what we should be talking about. What Paul is condemning is far less than that. Are we together?
Verse 5: For you may be sure of this - 100% certainty - that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater) - someone who’s making an idol out of someone else’s body - has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
Someone who has a - by grace - relationship with God through Jesus Christ - isn’t going to live that way.
That’s a choice we need to make. To see sex as more than just a physical act of self-gratification. But as an expression of sacrificial love.
Verse 6: Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
Let’s be clear.
Paul is not writing about God being some uptight about sex God who sits at His computer waiting to zap people who get out of line sexually - to nail people with strategic lightening strikes or viruses.
The wrath of God - that Paul is writing about here - the wrath of God is a reality that’s tied to the curse God spoke on to the world back when Adam and Eve sinned. It’s a part of living in a fallen - rebellious - at war with God and God’s people - world.
Sexual promiscuity opens us up to disease - unplanned pregnancy - neurotic behavior - mental illness - anxiety - emptiness - shattered families - economic hardships - the growing immorality and disintegration of society and so on... A lot of what we see going on around us today. Yes?
Sexual promiscuity is dehumanizing. It destroys what it means to be a man or woman created in the image of God. It is a gross sinful distortion of what love really is. All of which is not God’s will for us.
Verses 3 to 6 are a huge warning to us. Paul writes, “Let no one deceive you.”
Bottom line: Don’t be deceived. Grab the disastrous reality of what’s really going on.
Sex is a powerful weapon wielded by Satan.
Every day we’re getting buried under an constant - insidious - deadly avalanche of sexual deception - attitudes and actions presented as normal - that pour in at us from every direction in our society - media and music - click bait. A lot of which is becoming normal or tolerated in the church.
In Ephesus there was a temple dedicated to the Greek goddess Artemis. It was one of the wonders of the ancient world - a massive complex that brought tourists from all over.
The worship of Artemis was made possible by a multitude of young priests and priestesses who gave their bodies to whoever paid the price. Whatever that meant.
The whole city accepted the kind of immorality that Paul is writing about. They accepted it as an act of worship. It was normal. It was proper.
Paul warns the Ephesians about sexuality immorality because they were confronted with it every single day of their lives.
They got what Paul writes about just like we get Paul today.
Paul’s point: Beloved of God - if you want to live in imitation of God - don’t let the world deceive you. When it comes to living in love that imitates God’s love - the world is going in a totally different direction than God.
Paul - goes on in verse 7: Therefore - because we want to imitate God - Therefore do not become partakers with them;
To partake - in Greek “metochos” - is to become a business partner - people tied together by agreement for common goals. Beloved - don’t connect with the world like that.
Paul is being very practical. Recognize what’s in the world for what it is and reject it.
Verse 8: for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. So - walk - live - as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.
Darkness is who we were. Living life in sin separated from God. Light is who we are. Living life with God in Christ. Dark is bad. Light is good. That’s the metaphor. Right?
What does it look like to imitate God? As those who are in Christ live as children of light.
Verse 11: Take no part - the word in Greek is “koinonos” - fellowship - communion.
Cut off any “fellowship” - any partnership - you might have with the world. Don’t take part - in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.
Paul is teaching that we can’t tolerate sin or hide it or ignore it or make excuses for it or dabble in it just a little. That just binds us to what’s shameful - sinful - worthless - darkness and deadly. Who we were apart from Christ.
What’s sin is… sin.
Deal with it. Bring it into the light of God’s truth. See it for what it is. Come clean with God about it. Ask for forgiveness. Repent of it. Reject it and turn away from it. Cry out to God for deliverance from it.
Verse 14: For this reason it says, “Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Here Paul is pulling together a number of different Old Testament passages and applying them to how we - by grace - in Christ - live in Christ’s light.
Jesus said - John 8:12: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
Paul’s bottom line point in all that is WAKE UP!!!
Wake up to the absolute seriousness and precariousness of our situation.
If we want to live in imitation of God follow Jesus. Pursue Jesus. Imitate Jesus. Turn away from - cut off and cut out anything that keeps you from following Him.
Going on to verse 15 - Paul’s next - what does it look like to imitate God point - is to live wise. To live with God’s wisdom.
Verse 15: Look carefully - meaning watch where you step - look carefully then how you walk - how you live - not as unwise but as wise,
Being wise meaning doing life from the perspective of what God knows and what God understands about life.
How? Verse 16 - making the best use of the time...
“making the best use of” translates a Greek word that has the idea of redemption. Meaning rescuing it. Recovering it. Buying it back.
“time” translates a word that has the idea of opportunity. Every day is new opportunity.
Pulling that together: To live wise - applying God’s knowledge and understanding to our lives - is to redeem the opportunities that God gives to us in the times of our lives. Don’t waste time. Use time… wisely.
Why? ...because the days are evil. The war rages on.
We’re either going to move through life occupying space and sucking up oxygen - living lives of passive futility - living in Satan inspired darkness - being borderline neurotic about useless things - focusing on taking care of ourselves at the expense of others - self-love.
Or, we will choose to live out God’s great purposes for which He’s created us - redeemed us - being His beloved kids - being used by Him to push forward His kingdom and to make an eternal difference in the lives of those around us.
Very practically: The way to avoid wasting our lives is to redeem time God’s way.
Verse 17: Therefore - because hopefully all of us choose meaning and purpose over futility and eternal death - therefore do not be foolish -
So, here’s how you live wise in evil times - redeeming time.
First - verse 17: understand what the will of the Lord is.
If we're going to do life from God’s perspective we need to understand more of God’s perspective. What God wills for life.
The word “understand” in Greek has the idea bringing two things together.
To understand is to take what God reveals about Himself and how we’re to live life - what’s in the Bible - and to bring that together with the day-to-day of our lives.
Point being: Redeeming time is investing in the study of God’s word - meditating - memorizing - discussing - being taught - learning His truth. And then praying and seeking His application of His word to our lives as we go through life.
Understand what the will of the Lord is - His will for our lives.
Second: Verse 18: And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,
The Contemporary English Version renders the verse this way: “Don’t destroy yourself by getting drunk, but the let the Spirit fill your life.”
It’s a question of what we let control our lives. Alcohol or whatever’s got a hold of our lives verses God.
I start off my day with a list of things I’m going to do and rarely does my day go the way I planned. Anyone relate to that?
I get a text or an email or the computer rebels or something and I’m off my list.
I get to the end of the day and I’m feeling frustrated and empty because I haven’t been able to get my list done. All the things and pursuits that I think are important for me to do.
Hear this: Living wisely isn’t about what we fill in our lives with. Whether that’s something that’s more obviously messed up like getting drunk or something less obvious like working hard at working hard or hoarding stuff or over eating...
Living wisely is about living controlled by the Holy Spirit - living life focused on God and pursuing God’s agenda for our lives - what God desires to fill our lives with.
Bottom line: When we finally letting go of trying to fill our lives with useless stuff - and we shred our “to do” list for our lives - and we choose to soak in the light of God’s word and seek to live only by what God reveals about Himself and His will - then we begin to learn to live life in the Spirit - relying on Him - knowing His sufficiency - hearing His voice - following His prompting - exhibiting His gifts - learning to live in a growing intimate relationship with God - in imitation of God as we do life.
That’s redeeming time. That’s when we begin to move into the opportunities that God has for us in the time that He gives to us.
The outcome of that Paul opens up to us beginning in verse 19.
First - we begin addressing - or speaking to - one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,
What God is doing in us and through us spills out of us in praise.
We desire to come together to share together the joy of life in Christ.
God’s people praising God together. Celebrating the presence and goodness of God. Huge that we do that together. Wise that we do that together.
Second outcome - verse 20: giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
God’s kids giving thanks together always and for everything to God our Heavenly Father. In all circumstances - pandemics and whatever.
Wisely redeeming our time by reminding each other of the goodness and presence of God - past and present and future - and the opportunities God gives us in the midst of the worst of what the world throws at us.
Third outcome - verse 21: submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
“submitting” literally has the meaning of putting ourselves under each other. Tough to do.
Unless it’s out of reverence for Christ. Literally out of “fear” for Christ. Respect. Submitting together to Christ Jesus the Head of His Church.
Pulling those outcomes together - living wise pulls us together as the church - as God’s kids - to testify of Him. What God does in us and through us as we seek to imitate Him.
Processing all that.
Reading and studying through this on Sunday is one thing. Living it on Monday is something else. Thinking about that I’d like to share a song with you that I hope will be helpful.
Years ago I worked at Mount Hermon with a group of really talented people. One of them shared this song.
So imagine yourself at Junior High camp… as a Junior Higher. As you’re listening and watching the words maybe you’ll want to sing along.
As you’re listening think about how easy it is for us to be deceived and to get focused on anything but living in imitation of God.
My Friends and me down at the corner store,
They’re filling their pockets while I watch the door.
I thought that was going a bit too far,
But my hand reached out for a Snickers Bar
Don’t know why I took it,
Chocolate gives me zits.
Don’t know why I took it,
All those peanuts are the pits.
But I wasn’t gonna’ be the only one,
Not to go along.
Don’t want to stand alone if I can sit with the rest.
Who cares if I’m wrong.
Who cares if I’m wrong.
Oh I’m a robot.
I’m a robot.
And I’ve been programmed by the world.
And if everyone was female,
Then I’d probably try to be a girl.
Everybody’s wearing these ugly new shoes,
They come in ugly reds of assorted hues.
Got to get some quick I said with a laugh,
I’ve gotta’ find me a pair in a 10½.
Don’t know why I bought ‘em,
I look like a goon in red.
Don’t know why I bought ‘em,
Should have got a pair of Nikes instead.
But I wasn’t gonna’ be the only one,
Without those shoes on my feet.
Don’t want to stand alone if I can sit with the rest.
I gotta’ be me.
Oh, I gotta’ be me.
And when the world says jump,
I say how high.
And if ugly was in,
I’d probably give it a try.
You may be wondering if I’m sane,
But, I’m not nuts I’m just a Jello brain.
Have you heard about the latest thing,
Jumpin’ from buildings wearing Styrofoam wings.
So I’m off tonight, hope the wings don’t sag,
Or, they’ll be scraping my guts into a plastic bag.
Don’t know why I’m gonna’ do it.
Man I’m afraid of heights.
Don’t know why I’m gonna’ do it,
A boo boo would shut out my lights.
But I’m not gonna’ be the only one,
To try and use my head.
Don’t want to stand alone if I can sit with the rest.
Who cares if I’m dead.
Big deal if I’m dead.
We live in a world that is very real to us. Because it is. It’s a world of pressures and associations and temptations that can be very dangerous. A world at war with God and God’s people. The assault by the world is relentless.
We need to recognize it for what it is and reject it by turning to God in faith and seeking to follow Him forward through life.
Notice how everything Paul writes here about imitating God cycles back to how we do that together. When we live in imitation of God’s love and God’s light and God’s wisdom together we live in total contrast to the fractured humpty dumpty world around us.
We need each other. Not only because God has given us each other to help us go there. But because as we live in imitation of God together we demonstrate God - His love and light and wisdom to the world.
That’s why we’re here. Being the Church - Creekside. Even in these days. That’s the opportunity that’s before us.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.