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Sermon #61 — Ephesians Sermons
Title: Imitating God
Text: Ephesians 5:1
Subject: Imitating God
Date: Tuesday Evening — February 28, 2017
Readings: Merle Hart and Allen Kibby
I want two things for you, two things for every one of you. For these two things, I pray and labor day and night.
1. I want you to be saved by the grace of God. Oh, that God may be pleased to give you life and faith in his dear Son! ⸺ “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved!”
2. I want you to live for Christ, to live for the glory of God.
And that which I seek for you, I seek for myself. I want God’s salvation. I want to trust Christ. And I want to live for him who loved me and gave himself for me.
You will find my text in the first verse of Ephesians chapter 5 ⸺ Ephesians 5:1.
(Ephesians 5:1) “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children.”
Let me give you another translation of my text. ⸺ “Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children.” The Amplified Version translates Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:1 ⸺ “Therefore be imitators of God [copy him and follow his example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father].”
Paul, here, urges us to be “imitators of God.” That is how we ought to live in this world, as “imitators of God.” I want to talk to you about imitating God. That is the title of my message ⸺ Imitating God.
We live in a day that prizes originality. Men are forever striving to be original. One of the greatest ways to express disdain for a man in our day is to say, “He never had an original thought in his life.” We are all horribly proud creatures! And pride is never so proud as when it enters the realm of religion. One of those things I constantly urge young preachers not to do is strive for originality. The proud longing for originality is one reason why the old, old gospel of the grace of God is seldom heard from the pulpit. It would be a good thing for the church of Christ if her preachers would learn that the only thing about them that is original is original sin.
The same is true of us all. Tonight, I call upon you to forsake all desires for originality. I urge you to be copyists. Our text calls us to the noble duty of being “imitators of God.” May God the Holy Ghost fire your soul and mine with a desire to be like the Most High.
Oh, for a heart to live for God,
A heart from sin set free!
A heart constrained by Jesus’ blood,
So freely shed for me!
A heart in every thought renewed,
And full of love for God;
Perfect, upright, and pure, and good,
The heart of Christ, my God!
Your nature, gracious Lord, impart;
Come quickly from above;
Write Your new name upon my heart. ⸺
Reveal in me Your love!
Give and Forgive
The apostle urges us to give and forgive. If we are imitators of God, let us give, for he is always giving.
Š Give, for if he did not continually give, our lives would cease.
Š Give, for he gives to all men liberally and upbraids not.
Š Give, for every good and perfect gift comes from above.
Let us be imitators of God, the constant and generous Giver, who spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all. ⸺ “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.”
Then comes that which is a much harder task, but that which is the joy and delight of God’s saints. If we are God’s children, let us forgive, for the Lord our God graciously forgives. ⸺ “God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
Š He has blotted out our transgressions.
Š He has cast our sins into the depth of the sea.
Š He has removed our iniquities from us as far as the east is from the west.
Š God has buried our offences in the tomb of forgetfulness.
Therefore, let us freely forgive the offences of others, so that when we bow our knees we can pray without hypocrisy, ⸺ “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us.”
May these two things be prominent features of your life and mine as God’s dear children, giving and forgiving, giving to the needy and forgiving the guilty.
Š Giving to those in need.
Š Giving to the cause of Christ.
Š Giving to our missionaries and preachers.
Š Giving for the furtherance of the gospel.
Š And forgiving those who offend us.
Doing these things, we walk in love as Christ also has loved us. Christ has given himself for us; and through his precious blood God has faithfully and justly forgiven us of all sin. O Spirit of God, give me grace to blend giving and forgiving into one God-like life, imitating my God!
Proposition: All who are God’s children, by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, are here called to be “imitators of God, as dear children.”
Divisions: I want to set four things before you in this message about imitating God.
1. Consider the command itself.
2. Weigh the argument.
3. Think of the encouragements.
4. Obey the precept.
1st ⸺ Consider the command itself. ⸺ “Be ye therefore followers (imitators) of God.” ⸺ To many this command has little meaning. Many have weak, unscriptural, and irreverent ideas about God. Since they think little of God, they think it is an easy thing to imitate him, and presume that they do so fairly well. But, for those who know God, this is a tremendously weighty thing to consider. We have seen the glory, majesty, holiness, and supremacy of God. How can sinful worms imitate the Almighty?
This is a call to that which is most practical and useful. Many think that the commands of the Holy Word are impractical. But what we have before us in Ephesians 5:1 could not be more practical. There is nothing mystical, sentimental, or speculative about our text. This is an eminently practical exhortation. It points to action, continued action of the best kind. ⸺ “Be ye imitators of God.”
Paul does not tell us simply to go and meditate upon God but he tells us to imitate him. Meditation is a good, pleasant, and profitable thing for our souls. It will instruct you, strengthen you, comfort you, inspire your heart, and make your soul steadfast. By all means, meditate upon God.
Š God the Father!
Š God the Son!
Š God the Holy Ghost!
Š God’s Salvation!
Š God’s Providence!
Š God’s Goodness!
But do not stop at meditation. We must go on to imitation of God himself. Do not be satisfied to feed your soul by meditation. Put to use the strength that you have gained. It is good to make Mary’s excellent choice, sitting at the Savior’s feet and hearing his word, but now we must arise and follow his steps. ⸺ How I thank God for his serving Marthas! ⸺ Those who…
Š Work hard to give generously!
Š Mow the grass, shovel the snow, maintain the flowers, and clean the building!
Š Who visit the sick and entertain guests!
Š Look for things to do!
The apostle does not say to us, “Be ye admirers of God,” but “be ye therefore imitators of God.” ⸺ We do admire God. Of course, we do. The pure in heart see God, and they are filled with a reverent admiration of him. With the seraphim, every renewed soul cries, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts.” ⸺ “Who is like unto thee, O God, glorious in holiness?”
But we must not be satisfied with admiring God. We show our admiration of him by carefully imitating him. The imitation of God is the highest and most sincere way of admiring him.
This exhortation does not even stop at adoration of God. Though adoration is a sublime part of worship, it is nothing without imitation. Adoration arises from meditation and admiration; and it is one of the highest forms of worship. We serve God greatly when we adore him. Our whole lives should be marked by adoration. Not only on Sundays, at certain set hours, in the assembly, and in our closets, but always and in all things let us adore God. Thus, adoration becomes a practical imitation of him. And our adoration is proved to sincere by imitation.
The true worship of God involves imitating him. In meditation, admiration, and adoration, we must study to be like him. We want a resemblance between God and us. Otherwise, our knowledge of him is but a cold form; our faith is but a dead profession; and our praise is but an empty compliment. How can we say that we love God if we do not desire to be like him?
As Dear Children
Truly, the command here given is most practical. But watch this ⸺ Paul’s exhortation here treats us as we are. It treats us as children. ⸺ “Be ye imitators of God, as dear children.” Being God’s dear children, we are to simply copy the example of God, as he is revealed in our dear Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Spirit of God does not here require us to strike out like men and be original. He simply requires us to copy Christ. Like a boy in school simply copies his letters, the children of God are to copy his Son.
We must follow him by faith, trusting in his blood, his righteousness, his grace, his intercession, trusting him! Trying to follow God, trying to imitate God, is nothing less than mocking him, until you trust Christ. You cannot follow God until you are born of God (John 3:3-8). ⸺ Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. That is where you must begin.
You cannot possibly imitate God if you do not know him. Before we can imitate God, we must know him. We must be possessors of the knowledge of the Lord, that only comes by the Holy Ghost. Until Christ is revealed in you, you cannot imitate him.
Then, being God’s own dear children, we must be careful not to invent a pretended holiness or godliness of our own. But we must copy the holiness and godliness of our Savior. The Pharisees added many things to the commandments of God, just as religious people do today. But the children of the kingdom simply follow the Master. If we would follow our Lord we must understand that the kingdom of heaven is not in meats, and drinks, and carnal things, but in righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
Love for God our Savior, compels us to imitate him. ⸺ “The love of Christ constraineth us!” But we can never be compelled to imitate him by any other force. We naturally grow into the likeness of those we both love and admire. In married life men and women who truly love one another are gradually conformed to one another in the process of time. Love for God our Savior compels the believer to say with David, “My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.”
Yet, imitation requires great care and effort. If you imitate someone, you must show great care. Watchful care is implied in imitation. The man who is earnest about his soul is prayerful and desirous that he may be like God. He calls upon the aid of the Holy Spirit, that he may be like his Lord.
“Be ye imitators of God, as dear children.” ⸺ This is not a matter of legal obedience, but a matter of grace. Believers are not driven to godliness, like horses to the plow, by the whip of the law. We are here called to be imitators of God as his dear children, as children who delight in the law of God after the inward man. ⸺ “Be ye imitators of God as dear children.” The children of grace imitate God because of the sweet bonds of the gospel, from a willing heart. ⸺ You do not have to force your children to imitate you. They do it naturally, even in their games.
Nothing could make us more useful to one another than obedience to this exhortation. ⸺ “Be ye imitators of God.”
Š As we imitate God our Savior, we benefit one another.
Š As we imitate God we honor the gospel.
Š As we imitate our God we serve his church and kingdom well.
2nd ⸺ Carefully weigh the argument Paul uses to secure our obedience. The precept is ⸺ “Be ye imitators of God.” The argument is this, “as dear children.” This is the greatest privilege and highest title that a mere mortal can have.
We are the children of God!
Š We are God’s children by eternal adoption in Christ.
Š We are God’s children by divine predestination.
Š We are God’s children by sovereign regeneration.
Š We are God’s children by faith in Jesus Christ.
Š We are God’s children, now! ⸺ “Beloved, now are we the sons of God.”
Š In as much as we are now the children of God, by almighty power and grace, it is only reasonable that we should be imitators of God.
Not only are we the children of God; but we are his “dear children.” We are children beloved of God. Is not this a mighty and tender argument, irresistible to your soul? ⸺ “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God!”
Behold what wondrous grace
The Father has bestowed
On sinners of a mortal race,
To call us sons of God!
It does not yet appear
How great we shall be made;
But when we see our Savior here,
We shall be like our Head.
We would no longer be
Like slaves beneath the throne,
My faith shall “Abba Father,” cry
And God His children own!
Imagine this. ⸺ We are God’s “dear children,” the children of Jehovah’s love! ⸺ God loves us freely. ⸺ God loves us eternally. ⸺ He loves us in Christ. ⸺ His love for us can never change.
Š He loved us though we fell in Adam.
Š He loves us in spite of our sins.
Š He loves us protectively, providing for our needs, preserving us from our enemies, and watching over our cares.
Š God loves his children with a perfect love; and “perfect love casteth out fear.”
Am I so loved of God? Then, I cannot resist this command. I am altogether in debt to his love. I must endeavor to be like him. O God, give me your likeness.
A Hidden Jewel
There is yet another jewel hidden in this text. Paul’s words might be read, “Be ye imitators of God, for such children are beloved children.” You know how a father delights in a son or daughter who is always loving, obedient, and sincere, always seeking his honor. He may have other children. He loves them all dearly. But some of them are stubborn, rebellious, and hard. But his soul delights in that son who delights to please his father. I do not suggest that God loves some of his sons less than others. He loves us all perfectly in Christ. But I do say that as we imitate God, he delights to see his Son in us. John was called “John the beloved,” “that disciple whom Jesus loved,” because in John there was a great reflection of the Lord himself. ⸺ Let us then be imitators of God in so high a sense, as children beloved, whose one thought is how we may please our Father. Let it be…
Š our greatest sorrow to dishonor him and grieve him,
Š our greatest joy to please him,
Š and our greatest goal to be like him.
3rd ⸺ Perhaps some of you are thinking that this is a great subject, but it is too great for me. How am I to imitate God? So, I want us to think of the encouragements we have to obey this precept. God has made great provisions for us that we may be like him. I will only hint at a few in order to encourage our hearts to seek more and more of his likeness.
God has graciously made us his children. I speak to believers. You are the sons and daughters of God. If we are to be imitators of God, we must first be his children. By the new birth, we are renewed in the divine image.
God has given us his divine nature. ⸺ “According as his divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:3-4).
If we are truly born again as God’s children, he has implanted a new nature, a new man, a new heart within us. The old nature, the old man, and the old heart are still there, but God has placed within us his Seed, even Christ the Lord. ⸺ “Christ in you, the hope of glory!”
(2 Corinthians 5:17-21) “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (18) And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; (19) To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. (20) Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. (21) For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
God has given us his Holy Spirit. ⸺ “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity” (Romans 8:26).
Š We are weak, but he strengthens us.
Š We are ignorant, but he teaches us.
Š We are falling, but he lifts us up!
Š We are languishing, but he revives us.
Š We are nothing, but his grace is sufficient! ⸺ “My grace is sufficient for thee!”
The Lord God has graciously given us the example of Christ as a pattern for our lives. ⸺ “I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15). Christ was and is the embodiment of the eternal God. He is the express image of his person, the brightness of his glory. In Christ, we see God. If we would be like God, we must follow Christ’s example (Philippians 3:10).
God graciously gives us personal communion with himself. ⸺ If we would be like God, we must fellowship with him. We must walk with him. We must live with him. Nearness to God gives likeness to God. The more you see God, the more God will be seen in you.
God has given us his Word. ⸺ “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my pathway.” If you would know God’s will, go to the Holy Bible, his Word. There he reveals his will. There he reveals his way. Search it out, and follow it. In the pages of Holy Scripture, we have the counsel of infinite wisdom.
4th ⸺ God give us grace to obey this precept. ⸺ “Be ye therefore imitators of God, as dear children.” The Holy Spirit dwells in us to make us like Christ in all things, for to be like him is to be like the Most High. Being like Christ is the fruit of the Spirit. The works of the flesh are many. But the fruit of the Spirt is one (Galatians 5:22-23).
(Galatians 5:16-25) “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. (17) For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. (18) But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. (19) Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, (20) Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, (21) Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, (23) Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (24) And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. (25) If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”
The fruit of the Spirit is a Christlikeness toward God himself. And the fruit of the Spirit is the treatment of other men as Christ himself treated them.
Š Be longsuffering with the faults of others.
Š Treat one another with gentleness, kindness, and tenderness.
Š Show goodness and mercy to one another, even as God shows goodness and mercy to you. ⸺ “Be ye merciful, as your Father in heaven is merciful.”
The fruit of the Spirit is being like Christ in ourselves. It is living by faith in God, loving one another. Submit to God your Father in all meekness. Live above this world, exercising temperance, such as Christ has shown us.
Š Do not be quick tempered with men.
Š Do not be quick tempered with God.
Š Exercise self-control, and restraint in all things by the power of the Spirit who dwells in you.
And never forget that the imitation of God is “the fruit of the Spirit.” ⸺ It is not by the power of the flesh that we are conformed to the image of Christ, but by the power of the Spirit. Let us boast nothing of ourselves, but give all glory to his grace.
Let me draw a few inferences from our text.
Š If God requires us to be imitators of him by forgiving men of their wrongs for Christ’s sake, then God must be ready to forgive sinners for Christ’s sake.
Š If God requires us to be imitators of him by being truthful and honest with them, then God will surely keep his Word to us.
Š From all that is written here, I must conclude that God is a dear Father to all believers. He treats us with kindness, tenderness, and patience. He loves us dearly. He will never turn his love away from us.
Let this be your fervent prayer, your inmost desire – “O God, my Father, give me the grace of Christ, the power of your Spirit, and such faith in you, that I may imitate you as a beloved child.”
Father, I long to live as one
Who knows Your matchless love,
As one who has been heaven born,
Who lives for things above.
Savior, I want to honor You,
And do the will of God,
In thought, and word, and deed to live
As one redeemed by blood.
O Holy Spirit, guide my steps,
And guard my heart and tongue,
Subdue my sin, grant grace to live
As one that’s heaven born.
Is this your desire? Do you long to be like Christ your God? Then you shall be satisfied. You shall awake in his likeness. ⸺ “We know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
Š We will be like him, full of love.
Š We will be like him, free from sin.
Š We will be like him, robed with glory!