BE LIKE GOD!
5:1-14 still come under the section ‘Living as children of light’ [NIV]. In chapters 1-3 Paul focused on the new live a Christian has in Christ – What we are in Christ – and now in chapters 4-6 he is focusing on the practice of the Christian life -how we should live in Christ.
He focused in the first half of ch. 4 on unity – now he is dealing with purity – in actions, words and thoughts. Having already urged his readers to refrain from certain things and to pursue others – don’t lie but tell the truth, don’t be angry and sin, don’t steal but share ..
Chapter 4 ends with Paul exhorting us to be kind, compassionate and forgiving – as God has been to us. Of course there are no verse and chapter breaks in Paul letters – so when he begins to think about what we should be like he ends up saying BE LIKE GOD!
Look at v.1-14 under two sections Living and children of love and living as children of light.
- LIVE AS CHILDREN OF LOVE. [v. 1 – 7]
There therefore of 5v1 refers back to what has just been said. Kindness, tender-heartedness and forgiveness are characteristics of God who is LOVE. He is therefore the example to follow.
- a) The pattern to follow.
1 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (NIV)
The Greek word for ‘imitate’ is mimetes from which we get our English word ‘mimic’. Just as children copy their parents we are to copy our heavenly Father.
We know from our own families that children not only often look like their parents but grow up to have the same attitudes and mannerisms.
How is it possible that we can imitate God? In what ways does Paul mean this? He can’t mean that we can do some of the things that God has done – we can’t create out of nothing – we can’t forgive sin in the way He does – we can’t secure salvation for anyone ….
We can imitate God’s characteristics – not to the level of his – his is infinite and we are finite – he is perfect and we are sinful even when we have been redeemed.
One of the greatest evidences of God’s love is his undeserved forgiveness The presence of forgiveness is always evidence of the presence of love. It is God’s willingness to forgive us in spite of our sin that shows how much he loves us. And our willingness to forgive others is an indication of how much or how little we reflect the character of God.
“ …. forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us …”
Is there that attitude in you that says, “I can never forgive So-and so for what the did to me / or to my family…”
If we are to reflect the character of Christ then our attitude needs to be that of Christ when he was being crucified “Father forgive them they don’t know what they are doing…”
Maybe you are saying “I don’t have that kind of forgiveness in me” TRUE! Naturally this kind of attitude is not possible. It is only as the Holy Spirit helps us to appreciate the depths of God’s forgiveness for us that we will be able to extend that forgive to others.
Forgiveness and love are inextricably linked – Christ’s willingness to forgive is seen in his self-giving. self-sacrificing love. Not a romantic love nor a friendship, brotherly love which are mainly based on feelings – but a giving love in spite of feeling or lack of feelings.
Christ has shed abroad his love in the hearts of his people and he expects us to exhibit that love, not only to those that we like but even to our enemies. Christians talk much about worship and praise to God as an offering to God.
BUT here is a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God – our much singing and praising counts for little unless it is accompanied by acts of selfless love towards others people. Lovelessness in a Christian is more that just a failure or shortcoming. IT is SIN! – it is a wilful disobedience of God’s command and a disregard for his example.
Sacrificial love for others becomes a sacrifice acceptable to God.
This is the pattern to follow.
- b) The practices to avoid.
3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. (NIV)
Throughout this chapter Paul has touched on various sins. Here he now focuses on sexual sins. Remember the context of the Ephesian Church – Ephesus was a City known for is sexual promiscuity. The Temple to the sex-goddess Diana [Artimus] – every kind of sexual perversion imaginable took place in Ephesus.
He focus not simply on the sexual acts but also on the words and thoughts that go along with sexual sins.
Paul has talked about how Christians should have self-sacrificing love – here he shows the opposite – the self-indulgent lust that is evident in those who have rejected God’s love. Not that every unbeliever is as debased as this – he is showing an extreme opposite to God’s love.
The word for immorality come from porneia from which we get the word pornography. Porneia together with the word impurity covers all sexual activity outside its God-ordained context of a loving marriage relationship.
The word greed carries the meaning of “coveting” – the 10th commandment – why coveting – because there is nothing more degrading than the coveting of someone else’s body for self-gratification.
Love should be a giving for the benefit of others – this kind of lust is the using of others for selfish desires. Our society is saturated with this kind of attitude – I have a right to satisfy my own sexual desire – it this is not true of our society why then is the sex industry so prosperous?? Why have we seen the launch this week of two sex channel on satellite TV – Fantasy and playboy? They would not do it if there wasn’t a market for it.
Studies show that it is not just metal disturbed perverts who watch this stuff but Mr and Mrs Public.
Paul says we are to avoid such things – not just the acts but also the words and attitudes as well.
Avoid course joking, silly talk and filthy language. I enjoy good comedy but there is very little that one can watch with out there being overt or covert vulgarity. Double meaning and innuendo is part of so many programmes. Some as simply blatantly vulgar.
While we need to avoid these things we not fall into the rap that Christian have fallen into in the past – that of making out as if sex is dirty. Sex is wonderful gift from God – he created it to be valued and enjoyed and we must not allow Satan to deprive us of God’s good gifts. BUT it must be between husband and wife only. Any sexual activity outside of marriage is unacceptable.
BUT let me add that is not unforgivable. And if you have fall in this area God can and will forgive!
Rather than abusing God’s gifts – including sex – we need to thank him for them and not joke about them. “To joke about them is bound to degrade them; to thank God for then is the way to preserve their worth as the blessings of a loving creator.” Stott p.193
- c) The punishment to expect.
Ephesians 5:5-7 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person — such a man is an idolater — has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no-one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them. (NIV)
There are many reasons in the Bible as to why Christians should abstain from immorality. We are created by God, we belong to Christ and we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and not Paul adds another reason – God’s judgement of sin.
Those who are continually involved in immorality may feel quite secure and have no fear of judgement whatever BUT that is a false security for they will not escape detection, conviction and judgement forever.
The kingdom of God is a righteous kingdom from which all unrighteousness will be excluded.
Those who continually and habitually follow these kinds of practices cannot claim to be members of God’s kingdom.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10
9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (NIV)
Such things should not characterise the children of God.
We need to be careful in our application of Paul’s teaching here. He is not saying that a person who has had a single immoral thought is thus disqualified from heaven forever. If that was the case then no one would get to heaven!!
For those who fall into sin and who subsequently are convict of there sin and repent there is forgiveness [1 John 1:9 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (NIV)]
In Paul day there were the beginnings of the teaching of gnosticism – dichotomy between body and spirit and only the spirit is important so what you do with your body doesn’t matter.
What Paul has in mind here are those who without shame or penitence pursue immoral and impure lives to the point where their desire are idolatrous – such people will have no part in the kingdom of God.
In the light of this do not be partners with such people. Not only must we not practise immorality we must also not be deceived into tolerating such things.
Paul does not mean that we should never talk to such people but rather is warning that we should not participate in these things with them. As Lot and his wife learned in Sodom, if you share in there practices with them you run the risk of sharing in their doom.
- LIVE AS CHILDREN OF LIGHT. v8-14.
Paul goes on now in these verses to give another reason why Christians should live holy and pure lives and not get involved in immoral practices. He has given a future reason viz. the coming judgement of God against all ungodliness and sinfulness.
He now gives past and present reasons. The difference between what Christians once were and what we are now in Christ.
These verses are contrasting darkness and light -this symbolism is used often in scripture. Light representing that which is good and pure and godly – in fact God is light.
Notice that Paul does not say that they were in the darkness and are now in the light – this is true as we see in other places in the NT – BUT Paul says they were darkness and are now light. Not only has their environment change BUT their lives have changed from darkness to light.
Life in the darkness is described in Ephesians 4:17-19
17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. (NIV)
A Christian is no longer darkness but light and must therefore live accordingly.
- a) The character light demands.
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. (NIV)
In John’s gospel Jesus described himself as the light of the world John 8:12
12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (NIV)
And in Matthew’s gospel he said the following Matthew 5:14
14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. (NIV)
For light to be light it must shine – Paul calls it FRUIT of LIGHT.
Goodness, righteousness and truth. It is perfectly justifiable to ask a Christian for evidence of their faith. There must be fruit. What good is an apple tree that never bears any apples. It is all very well have a wonderful testimony about your salvation in the past BUT what about NOW?
Assurance of salvation cannot be reliably determined by what happened in the past. “I sign a decision card at a Billy Graham rally in 1963!” SO WHAT??!!
Where there is life there will be evidence of life! Are you growing? Are you showing fruit?
Jesus said a branch that bears no fruit is cut off and thrown into the fire.
ILLUS.: Travelling on through Airports you usually have to go through security and your luggage is x-rayed. If you have nothing to hide you have no fear of this procedure.
Similarly Christians should not be afraid to be examined under the light of God’s word or the critical eye of the world. Unless of course we have something to hide.
2 Peter 1:5-11
5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is short-sighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (NIV)
- b) The corruption light exposes.
Ephesians 5:11-14 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper,rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (NIV)
While the light produces the fruit of goodness and truth the Darkness is unfruitful, unproductive and barren. So instead of participating in that darkness these things should be exposed – show for what they are.
When the church of God behaves as light as it should do then it exposes those things which are unfruitful and shameful. It is easy to hide in the dark but not in the light.
The reason why Christian often shy away from this role is because it is very unpopular with those who practise shameful things.
We throw up our hands in horror and tut-tut about violence and explicit sex on TV, and a host of other things BUT what do we do about it? Have you ever complained to the BBC or ITV?
It is all very well bemoaning the state of our society and our country but Jesus said that his people were to be SALT and LIGHT – Salt was used to stop food going bad – it is the nature of meat to go bad unless it has a preservative in it. When meat goes bad we need to ask “Where is the preservative?” When society goes bad we need to ask “Where is the Church?”
On a personal level – We don’t have to walk around being critical – but by our lives are we affecting others. By saying no to the crooked business deal! By excluding yourself from smutty conversation! By refusing to get drawn into unkind gossip! – these things shed light in the darkness.
ILLUS.: Janet – midwife. A Doctor told a smutty joke in theatre and the others nurses [ not Christians] rebuked him for telling it in front of Janet.
When the light shines things are shown up for what they are
ILLUS.: In Middle East – shops dark – products taken outside to see if any defects.
Car windows – look clear until the sun comes out!!
Exposure have a negative connotation but Paul now gives the positive and ultimate reason as to why light must shine.
It is not just judgmental and condemnatory – Jesus came as the light of the world not too condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him. There is an evangelistic purpose – the only way for darkness to go is for light to come.
ILLUS.: You can’t switch off the darkness you can only switch on the light!
The hope is that as people are exposed to the light – Jesus – they will see their need, repent and turn to Christ from salvation.
This is why Paul adds: “Wake up, O sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
By nature we are all spiritual asleep – death in transgressions and sin – living in spiritual darkness from which Christ comes to rescue us.
Conversion is nothing less than waking up, rising from the dead and being brought out of darkness into the light of Christ.
Proverbs 4:18 The path of the righteous is like the first light of dawn,shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
May God’s Holy Spirit enable us to live as Light!
BE LIKE GOD!
- LIVE AS CHILDREN OF LOVE [v1 – 7]
- a) The Pattern to Follow [v1 – 2]
- b) The Practices to Avoid [v3 – 4]
immoral & impure acts, words & thoughts
- c) The Punishment to expect [v5 – 7]
no place in God’s kingdom
- LIVE AS CHILDREN OF LIGHT [v8 – 14]
- a) The Character Light Demands [v8 – 10]
righteousness } pleases the Lord
- b) The Corruption Light Exposes [v11 – 14]
… BUT Jesus gives life to anyone who repents!