“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.
As I began to prepare for this morning I did a quick search for the term “life coach”. More and more you hear about people needing a life coach, so I wanted to see what I would find.
Well it must be a pretty popular subject, because my search returned 314,000,000 results for the phrase “life coach”. In fact if you wanted to you could become a certified life coach in 16 hours for only $397.00.
The reason I have just given you that seemingly useless bit of information is because there are a whole lot of people who are looking for some kind of guidance in helping them learn how to live or seeking out someone to provide them with some kind of direction for their lives. In other words they are looking for help in trying to achieve what they believe is the right kind of lifestyle for them.
In the book of Ephesians Paul talks quite a bit about the lifestyle of a christian. The term that he uses is to describe how we as Christians are to live is walk. As we make our way out of chapter four and into chapter five Paul continues the theme of how we are to walk as Christians.
But before we look at Ephesians 5 this morning, I want to back up to the end of chapter four and remind us of what Paul said in the closing verses of that chapter.
Don’t Neglect Your Attitude!
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
As I mentioned briefly last week Paul is dealing with our attitudes. As Believers our attitudes as well as our actions must be different from those who do not know Christ, they must be different from those who have never experienced the grace of God in a saving way in their lives.
Charles Swindoll has a rather famous quote that you may have heard before. But I wanted to read it to you this morning
The longer I live the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude to me is more important than facts, it’s more important that the past, it’s more important than education, it’s more important than money, circumstances, failures, successes. It’s more important than what other people think or say or do. It’s more importance than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, or a home.
The remarkable thing is that we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace. We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string that we have, and that is our attitude. I’m convinced that life is ten percent of what happens to me and ninety percent of how I react to it.”
The reason I bring up our attitudes is two fold.
First I bring it up because the text does.
Second I bring it up because our attitudes do play such a key role in determining our actions
Therefore we as Christians can’t neglect a very important area of our lives, that being our attitudes
I’m going to make a strong statement but I want you think about it.
Negative attitudes are sinful because they are a sinful response, or a negative response to the providence of God in our lives.
Now think about that. Do we consider a negative attitude to be a sin?Or do we simply chalk them up to well that’s just the way that I am or I’m having a bad day?But if you believe in the sovereignty of God then you also have to believe in the providence of God.
What is the providence of God?I like to think of the providence of God as the working out of the sovereignty of God in my life.
When we say that God is sovereign we are acknowledging that He, not us is in control.How then does His sovereignty apply to my life and my circumstances? That is where the providence of God comes in. In providence His sovereignty is displayed, His sovereignty is being worked out.
My circumstances, my station in life if you will are the results of the working of God’s providence in my life.Therefore when I complain about what my circumstances our my relationships, my boss, my spouse, my children, my church I’m actually complaining about what God is currently doing in my life.
So Paul says put away all the anger, bitterness, wrath, and clamor. Put all of that stuff put all of those negative sinful attitudes away from you and instead put on the tenderheartedness, forgiveness, and kindness.Those are the new attitudes for the new creation that you are in Christ.
But it’s not just enough to put those attitudes on we also have to live out those attitudes.That’s where the opening verses of chapter five come into play. Now that I’m a Christian I must display the new attitudes and the new actions that characterize the new life that I now possess. Paul breaks down what is fitting for the new life, the new walk and what is not fitting for the new walk, the new life.
The walk, the new life that we now possess must be one of love.
But immediately we run into a problem that we need to address. What kind of love?Perhaps the most misunderstood subject in the world is love.
Thousands of songs are written about it, movies are mode over it. Books are written about it.Yet very few people really understand what love is.In fact many confuse love with just the opposite of love and that is lust.
How then can we make sure that we are walking in love?Paul helps understand by commanding us to be imitators of God.We can walk in love when our actions, when our attitudes are a reflection of God’s character.
To imitate God is to mimic God.To be an imitator of God is to copy the characteristics of God.
One of those characteristics that we are to mimic is His love. Like a child who loves their Father and wants to imitate him, so too should we as God’s children imitate Him.
What kind of love
As most of us are probably aware of, the Scriptures make use of three different Greek words to describe three different kinds of love. The love that Paul instructs us to live out here comes from the Greek word “agape”
Biblical love in reality has little to do with our emotion. It is a love of the will. I know to the world that doesn’t sound very romantic, and in many ways it’s not. Romantic love comes and goes. Biblical love loves because it is a love that loves even when the emotion is not there is a superior kind of love.
Here is what this means. Biblical love, agape love is a giving love, it is a love that gives itself for the benefit for the welfare of others.
John MacArthur writes “Divine love is unconditional love, love that depends entirely on the one who loves and not on the merit, attractiveness, or response of the one loved.
That means that love is given not because it is earned or deserved, but because we choose to, when we love unconditionally that is when we walk in love, that is when we are truly imitating God.
That is the kind of love that brings pleasure to God.
As we think about what Christ has done that is the kind of love that He displayed towards us. Christ loved us even when we were frankly very unlovely, He loved us while we were yet sinners.
What are the characteristics of godly love? What is the standard by which we must compare our love too?
Paul spells it our for us, we will be imitators of God when we walk in love that is characterized by a very important quality.
What is that quality? One word sacrifice!The love that God desires His children to walk in is a sacrificial love.A love that gives itself for others.
That’s the key difference between godly love and ungodly love – godly loves sacrifices for others, ungodly love is concerned only about self.
This is where our good works come into play. Good works are actions taken for the benefit of others.We are a good imitation of God when we love others sacrificially.How far am I to go? How far did Jesus go? Paul says Christ loved us and gave Himself for us. Notice this is the kind of love that God is pleased with. Paul says that the sacrifice of Christ was a “fragrant offering and pleasing to God”
Let me ask you something at this point. Are there any qualifications or conditions applied here? In other words does Paul say “Well when you reach a certain station or time of life you can start doing this, until then don’t worry about it.”
Obviously Paul doesn’t even hint at anything like that.
If we are believers we are to imitate God by loving others sacrificially regardless of our age or our circumstances.Just because you are in college, or raising a family or getting ready to retire those are not exemptions from imitating God and loving others as Christ loved you!
Please remember he is writing this to the church. Loving as Christ loved begins at church! And from there we are to love others sacrificially as well. To love as God loves is to give not take.
To love as God loves is to love unconditionally.
Godly love is not only a sacrificial love it is also a serving love. As we think about serving, we probably don’t think about love. But again if we look to the example that Jesus has set for us what do we see? Of course we see his love demonstrated through sacrifice, as He gave Himself as a sacrifice for our sins, but before he gave his life, he gave himself to serve others.
In Luke 22 several important things take place in this chapter. Luke opens the chapter by setting the scene for us. Luke 22:1-2 says “Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. 2 And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people.”
It would not be long before Satan would enter into Judas and Judas would betray the Lord. But before that would happen Jesus would celebrate the Passover Feast with the disciples. During this time as well the Lord’s Supper was instituted. Listen to part of what Jesus says as He is celebrating this last meal with them before his crucifixion. 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. 21 But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” 23 And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.
Jesus has just announced that He was about to be betrayed. You think that would be the dominant topic on the mind of the disciples, but it’s not. In verse 24 we read 24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.
This is unbelievable! Jesus has just announced that he is going to be betrayed, his death is only a few hours away and here they are arguing amongst themselves who is the greatest one. What did Jesus do? Did he explode and say “You guys how thick headed are you guys? I’m going to be betrayed shortly, I”m going to be convicted on trumped up charges, I’m going to be put to death and you guys are wondering whose the greatest! I don’t believe you guys! He could have just thrown up his hands and walked away. But he didn’t! What did he do?
In John 13 we have the parallel account of Luke 22. John tells us how Jesus reacted. “4 (Jesus) rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
Do you see how Jesus expressed his love for them who at that moment were acting in a very unlovely way? Do you see what Jesus did, he became a servant, and he washed their feet. That’s the kind of love that is pleasing to God. That is what it means to walk in love, that is what it means to imitate God.
That is the kind of lif that each one of us who claim to follow Christ, to be a disciple of Christ is called to live. That is the kind of love that our lives are to be characterized by. to imitate God is to walk in love, love that sacrifices and love that serves. It is a love that is totally foreign to most of this world and unfortunately to many Christians.
God’s love is to love through each and every season of life.
Just this week we’ve been provided with an illustration of the wrong kind of love being expressed by a “christian leader”.
You may or may not know the name Pat Robertson, he is the head of the Christian Broadcasting Network and in the past few years has made more than one statement that has raised some eyebrows both within and without the church.
His latest terrible statement had to do with whether or not it was right for one spouse to divorce another spouse who has Alzheimer’s disease.
I’m going to read you his exact words, and you can go online and check it our for yourself if you like. “A caller asked Robertson what advice a man should give to a friend who had begun dating another woman while his wife is stricken with Alzheimer’s.
“I know it sounds cruel, but if he’s going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her,” Robertson says.
Robertson says he would guilt trip anyone for divorcing a spouse who suffers from the neurological disorder.
“Get some ethicist besides me to give you the answer,” Robertson adds.
Robertson’s co-host Terry Meeuwsen, asks him about the marriage vows – “for better or for worse” and “in sickness and in health” – and whether a divorce on the basis of Alzheimer’s would violate the marriage vows.
Robertson responded by saying that Alzheimer’s “is a kind of death.”
Now I want you to contrast those words with the words of a Christian man who was the president of a major college who resigned his position to care for hiw wife who did have Alzheimer’s disease. Click on the image below to play the video.
Russell Moore who is a dean at Southern Seminary wrote a beautiful response to Pat Robertson’s statement. I’ve included his response here so you can read it yourself.
This week on his television show Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson said a man would be morally justified to divorce his wife with Alzheimer’s disease in order to marry another woman. The dementia-riddled wife is, Robertson said, is not there anymore. This is more than an embarrassment. This is more than cruelty. This is a repudiation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Few Christians take Robertson all that seriously anymore. Most roll their eyes, and shake their heads when he makes another outlandish comment (for instance, defending China”s brutal one-child abortion policy to identifying God”s judgment on specific actions in the September 11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina, or the Haiti earthquake). This is serious, though, because it points to an issue that is much bigger than Robertson.
Marriage, the Scripture tells us, is an icon of something deeper, more ancient, more mysterious. The marriage union is a sign, the Apostle Paul announces, of the mystery of Christ and his church (Eph. 5). The husband, then, is to love his wife “as Christ loved the church” (Eph. 5:25). This love is defined not as the hormonal surge of romance but as a self-sacrificial crucifixion of self. The husband pictures Christ when he loves his wife by giving himself up for her.
At the arrest of Christ, his Bride, the church, forgot who she was, and denied who he was. He didn’t divorce her. He didn’t leave.
The Bride of Christ fled his side, and went back to their old ways of life. When Jesus came to them after the resurrection, the church was about the very thing they were doing when Jesus found them in the first place: out on the boats with their nets. Jesus didn’t leave. He stood by his words, stood by his Bride, even to the Place of the Skull, and beyond.
A woman or a man with Alzheimer’s can’t do anything for you. There’s no romance, no sex, no partnership, not even companionship. That’s just the point. Because marriage is a Christ/church icon, a man loves his wife as his own flesh. He cannot sever her off from him simply because she isn’t “useful” anymore.
Pat Robertson’s cruel marriage statement is no anomaly. He and his cohorts have given us for years a prosperity gospel with more in common with an Asherah pole than a cross. They have given us a politicized Christianity that uses churches to mobilize voters rather than to stand prophetically outside the power structures as a witness for the gospel.
But Jesus didn’t die for a Christian Coalition; he died for a church. And the church, across the ages, isn’t significant because of her size or influence. She is weak, helpless, and spattered in blood. He is faithful to us anyway.
If our churches are to survive, we must repudiate this Canaanite mammonocracy that so often speaks for us. But, beyond that, we must train up a new generation to see the gospel embedded in fidelity, a fidelity that is cruciform.
It’s easy to teach couples to put the spark back in their marriages, to put the sizzle back in their sex lives. You can still worship the self and want all that. But thats not what love is. Love is fidelity with a cross on your back. Love is drowning in your own blood. Love is screaming, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.
Sadly, many of our neighbors assume that when they hear the parade of cartoon characters we allow to speak for us, that they are hearing the gospel. They assume that when they see the giggling evangelist on the television screen, that they see Jesus. They assume that when they see the stadium political rallies to take back America for Christ, that they see Jesus. But Jesus isn’t there.
Jesus tells us he is present in the weak, the vulnerable, the useless. He is there in the least of these (Matt. 25:31-46). Somewhere out there right now, a man is wiping the drool from an 85 year-old woman who flinches because she think he’s a stranger. No television cameras are around. No politicians are seeking a meeting with them.
But the gospel is there. Jesus is there.
Unless you and I have the right attitudes, we won’t have the right actions. If we don’t have the right actions we won’t be walking in love. If we don’t walk in love, we are not imitating God. If we are not imitating God we are not walking, we are not living up to what we are Christians. The question to consider this morning is how is your walk?[/sws_author_bio_ui]