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. (Eph. 5:1)
After saying something, have you ever said, “O my! I sound just like my father!” or looking in the mirror, “O my! I look just like my mother!” ?
It’s mostly not a compliment, but most of us don’t give our parents good examples’ enough credit. We sinfully often give ourselves credit for the good and blame others for the bad.
Flipping it around, have you even been humbled by your own children?
“Where did you learn to speak that way? Where did you learn that ugly anger face? Where did you learn that attitude? Where did you learn…?” O…me!
We learn by imitation, whether we realize it or not. In family, in work, in friendships, in church, from what we watch on TV, what we surround ourselves with, we often partly become the examples that we follow.
We could be imitating the good, right and true, as well as the bad, wrong and false.
Last week, we were reminded that the Christians in Thessalonica were in the minority, so also this week, hear that the Christians in Ephesus were in the minority. They were different than those around them.
Paul says to them, “You’re surrounded by non-Christian friends, family, and coworkers that beg you to imitate the bad.”
I encourage you to be aware that we imitate what we watch on TV and the internet. We mimic the music we listen. Part of us become the examples we surround ourselves with. Everything around us is saying, “”Do what I do! Say what I say! Think what I think! It’s no big deal!”
Imitate God! Imitate Christ. Imitate the good examples of Christians who hear and love words like this.
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as it proper among the 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 covetousness (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of God. (Eph. 5:3-5)
Don’t imitate the world. Treat your body, the body of others, and the gift of sexuality as God’s gift.
Christian men, do not speak about the female body in a filthy manner of speech. God’s gift of woman is not to the subject of crude joking. “Mmmm…did you see what she was wearing?” is not proper among the saints.
Christian women, foolish talk of any kind is not to come out of the same mouth that confesses the Creed and prays “Our Father…” “Can you believe what she is wearing?” is not proper among the saints.
Dear enlightened ones, young and old, men and women, boys and girls, “You should have been there to hear what she said!” “O, you heard? Then now let me tell you what I think about her!” “You should have seen what he did!” O, you did? Then let me tell what I think about him!” This must not even be named among you.
These are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
Imitate thanksgiving. Thank God for good examples of marriage – husbands sacrificing for their wives and wives respecting their husbands – both rejoicing in thanksgiving to God for each other in all manners and imitate that.
Imitate words that build up and not tear down. Imitate words that forgive and not words of judgment and gossip.
Imitate hearts that are content with what they have. Scripture calls coveting idolatry. Your heart is either clinging in faith toward God or vainly seeking happiness somewhere else. Your heart clings to God and His Word. His Word creates and sustains faith – it is not empty. So:
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 the light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true). [Eph. 5:6-9)
When we imitate the world, it’s often a slow, gradual, little change in speech, little change in thinking and acting, and we need our Lord often to help us look in the mirror and see, “O my! I sound just like the world!”
Dear enlightened Christians, we need to surrounds ourselves with and follow good examples. And the best example you can follow in when we confess together, “We need a Savior.”
Imitate God, yes! But hear again He has called you His beloved child. God is your Father.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.
Imitate the love of Christ to each other, yes! But hear again that He has done something you could never do – declare you pleasing to God.
And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Eph. 5:1)
Jesus gave up His body as a pleasing sacrifice, a fragrant offering to God, for us.
We who by sinful nature as well as by following bad examples as well as setting bad example had the stench of sin attached to us.
By sinful nature, we could not please God.
By sinful nature, we could not appease God’s just anger.
By sinful nature, there is nothing we could offer to God that would be acceptable.
But Christ, as God and man, could for us. And Christ as God and man, did for us.
God looks at you through your baptism and says, “O my! You look just like my Son – perfect, not a spot or wrinkle, beautiful, holy!”
God hears your prayers and says, “O my! You sound just like My Son. Perfect! Lovely! Acceptable! Pleasing! I hear you!”
God sees the love you show for others and says, “I am pleased. I made you my child to do exactly that!”
You are God’s child. God is pleased with you. God does not smell the stench of your death and sin and imitation of the world. God smells a pleasing aroma. He is at peace with you. Not just today or tomorrow, for Christ is high priest and pleasing sacrifice forever!
God speaks to you words that are not empty, but fill you with forgiveness and light – walk as children of the light!
Words that promise you His inheritance and every blessing of heaven – you have everything you need for this life and the next!
Words that lavish you with His grace and promise He is working all things according to His counsel and will – Words that cast out unclean spirit to make room again for the Holy Spirit – Words that calls out lies and sets You free with His truth – and Words that have formed and continue to form you and others as imitators of God. Amen.
O God, help us to continue to imitate You and the Christians You have given us as good examples, so that we too might be good examples to the world, to our children, and to all You have placed around us. As everything around us calls us to imitate it, help us to distinguish those that look and sound just like our Father from those that are lies and deceptive. Amen.