Imitate God (Ephesians 5:1-21)

Imitate God (Ephesians 5:1-21)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, October 22, 2017


Way back when I was in college I took a class called “Introduction to Psychology.” This was an interesting class. Part of the class was about how people learn and develop who they are. As people develop they will copy and imitate others. Actually, even into adulthood people are always copying and imitating other people.

Fast forward several years between college and seminary. By that time I was in a counseling class and I learned that our brains literally do change based off of who we are around. So, we know that if a positive person is around a negative person eventually that positive person will likely become a negative person. The brain literally will change. So, when parents are concerned of the influences on their children, they are right to be concerned.

When I was a child I always imitated by dad. I used walk behind him with a lawnmower. He had the real mower and we really did follow him with our plastic mower pretending to cut the grass. I had a big wheel and would watch for him to get home from work and as he parked his car, I parked my big wheel.

Who do you imitate? Do you imitate God?

Ephesians 5:1-21:

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an 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 be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;12 for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. 14 For this reason it says,

“Awake, sleeper,
And arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.”

15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

My theme and application today is: Christians are called to imitate God.

  1. Imitate God, we see this in verse 1.
    1. Verses 1-2 what we are supposed to do. Let’s read them: Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
    2. Now, don’t read that too fast. We are loved children.
    3. We are called to imitate God.
    4. Just as a child imitates his or her parents we imitate our Father in heaven.
    5. In 1 Cor 11:1 Paul writes Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
    6. One source helps with this: Be Imitators of God:
    7. No spiritual practice is as fundamental to our being formed into the Christ life than imitation. The whole of Jesus’ ministry with His disciples turned on this practice. When we pretend to be what we are not naturally, Jesus Christ mysteriously “injects” His kind of life into ours. And here is the most unthinkable of all—we can imitate God! (The Renovaré Spiritual Formation Bible. Foster, Richard, et al. Harper San Francisco. 2005. Page 2124.)
    8. I love that. Jesus “injects” His kind of life into ours.
  2. Get rid of the old, we see this idea in verses 3-12
    1. Dr . Constable shares: 5:3 The self-centered practices introduced here (“immorality”; lust) are the opposite of love. Self-indulgence is the opposite of self-sacrifice. There should be no hint of these perversions of love in the believer’s life, even in our speech (cf. Exod. 23:13; Deut. 12:30; Ps. 16:4). Sexual “immorality” was common among unsaved Gentiles, but it is totally inappropriate (“must not even be named”) for “saints.” “Impurity” is a broader term that includes all types of uncleanness (cf. 4:19). “Greed” is the lust (sinful desire) for more, and is essentially idolatry (v. 5). Here the greed in view is probably the coveting of someone else’s body for selfish gratification. “‘Immorality’ (RSV) and sexual perversion of almost every kind might be included under the [Greek] word porneia, translated fornication in AV; it involves all that works against the life-long union of one man and one woman within the sanctity of the marriage bond.”
    2. We must Avoid all immorality (5:3).
    3. We must Refrain from obscene language (5:4–5).
    4. We must not allow others to deceive us (5:6–7).
    5. We must Walk in the light (5:8–9, 11–14).
    6. But how do we get rid of that old? We find the answer in the next section
  • Be children of the light, look at verses 13-21
    1. Oswald Chambers helps in his devotion on Sept. 14th: Imagination v. inspiration

The simplicity that is in Christ. 2 Cor. 11:3.

Simplicity is the secret of seeing things clearly. A saint does not think clearly for a long while, but a saint ought to see clearly without any difficulty. You cannot think a spiritual muddle clear, you have to obey it clear. In intellectual matters you can think things out, but in spiritual matters you will think yourself into cotton wool. If there is something upon which God has put His pressure, obey in that matter, bring your imagination into captivity to the obedience of Christ with regard to it and everything will become as clear as daylight. The reasoning capacity comes afterwards, but we never see along that line, we see like children; when we try to be wise we see nothing (Matthew 11:25.).

The tiniest thing we allow in our lives that is not under the control of the Holy Spirit is quite sufficient to account for spiritual muddle, and all the thinking we like to spend on it will never make it clear. Spiritual muddle is only made plain by obedience. Immediately we obey, we discern. This is humiliating, because when we are muddled we know the reason is in the temper of our mind. When the natural power of vision is devoted to the Holy Spirit, it becomes the power of perceiving God’s will and the whole life is kept in simplicity. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest: Selections for the Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Oswald Chambers Publications; Marshall Pickering, 1986).

  1. So the answer is the Holy Spirit.
  2. Look at the applications here:
    1. We must Seek Gods will and do it (5:10, 17).
    2. We must Use every opportunity for doing good (5:15–16).
    3. We must not get drunk on wine (5:18a)
    4. We must Be filled with the Spirit (5:18b).
      1. You know that it is a waste to be drunk with wine.
      2. It is not a waste to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
    5. We must Use music to encourage each other and to worship God (5:19).
    6. We must Be thankful for all things (5:20).
    7. We must Submit to one another (5:21).
  3. But I believe a key to doing this is the Holy Spirit.
  4. If we let the Spirit reign in our lives He can clean us up.
  5. But you also notice the end of this section? Submit.
  6. We all submit to each other.
  7. Again, how do we do this? We do this “in Christ.”
  8. Jesus is in you.
  9. The Spirit is in you.
  10. Spend time with Him in prayer.
  11. Spend time in the Word.
  12. Spend time with the church.
  13. Be a disciple.


You know about imitating. Now, I see my daughters imitate their mother. Now, I see Abigail imitate Mercedes. Mercedes will do something and Abigail will copy it. Mercedes will say something and Abigail will say the exact same thing.

Do we imitate Jesus?

Do you know Jesus? Luke 9:23

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)


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