- Sermon Notes
The Power of Imitating Christ
May 22, 2022
Imitation is a very interesting phenomenon. It starts from a very young age. Kids will imitate their parents in everything: how they walk, how they talk, what they wear (until a certain age), and even gestures they use.
In the days we live in, the principle of imitation has become a billion-dollar industry. Advertising companies use celebrities to market their products in the hope that people will imitate their heroes and start to use their product. The age of Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, and other social media influencers has taken this to the next level.
I believe one of the deep-seated reasons for this is people want to belong. They would much rather follow someone who already has 3 million followers than someone who has five. Why is this? Maybe the feeling of being part of something bigger; if they follow the same trend as millions of people they will somehow belong and be part of something bigger.
Also, when people perceive that their heroes are adored and loved by so many people, they conclude that if they become like their hero, people will love and adore them as well.
Naturally, this can have a positive or negative result depending on who you follow. You become what you behold, so what you imitate, or follow is what or who you eventually will become.
In the book of Ephesians which we are busy with, Paul, in the first three chapters, focuses on the greatness of God, the spiritual riches we have in Christ, and our identity in Christ. From chapter 4, he shifts gears and focuses on what our lives should look like flowing from our identity in Christ. He admonishes them not to walk like the Gentiles walked, but to live differently empowered from within by the Holy Spirit. Now, in Ephesians 5, he expands on this theme.
We will see that what and who we imitate has a dramatic effect in our lives. So, Paul, one of the greatest influencers of all time, is asking us: who do you imitate? Paul wants you to imitate Christ because it’s the life God wants for you. He wants to bless you.
I. Be Imitators of God
- Verse 1 – Be imitators of God, as beloved children. Most heroes eventually fail to some degree or disappoint their followers. The reason for this is that heroes or celebrity’s persona are blown up to such a great stature that no one can live up to that. No human is perfect, so eventually the imperfections are revealed, and the followers are disillusioned. The hero is shunned, disregarded, and traded in for the next big thing; until that person also fails. And so, the pattern continues.
- We were made to follow someone specific, love someone, and imitate someone. The only one who is infallible, has all the beautiful attributes, loves unconditionally, accepts wholeheartedly and models perfection perfectly. That is God.
- God showed us what this perfection looks like in his son, Jesus Christ. Jesus said, if you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.
- He is the perfect hero and the perfect example to follow and imitate. He is the only one worthy of imitation.
A. Imitate God’s love
- Verse 2 – Walk in love, just as Christ also loved you. We are called to replicate and ‘pay it forward’ what we have been given and how we have been treated. As the inner man is changed and grows in the knowledge of who God is and God’s love for us, it changes how we walk and love.
1 Joh 4:18, There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear…
- If we don’t understand the complete and perfect love of God, we can fall into the trap of using our frame of reference of earthly, imperfect love and apply it to our image of God. We might have experienced earthly incomplete love that stops at a certain point, gives up when it gets hard, and this brings fear of rejection, fear of punishment, fear of abandonment.
- But God is not a man. God doesn’t have love, God is love. There is nothing too hard for Him to handle, no problem He can’t solve, no journey too hard. As we saw in the first three chapters of Ephesians, his love is based on your intrinsic value, on how He sees you and who you were created to be.
- God will never stop loving you. You can choose to walk away from Him, but he will never abandon you. You are always welcome back at the Father’s house.
- The more we understand this truth, the more it will change how we act. Because we were loved unconditionally, has seen mercy, and had grace lavished on us, we can love unconditionally, give mercy, and have grace with others who are hurting.
Illus. – many times we have come across children who has been in abusive relationships and has a warped idea of love because of the actions of a father. This would become their point of reference of love, and as such they are mostly always suspicious, or even fearful in other relationships when people try to be good to them or love them. If they do get a new loving father figure in their lives, it might take time to let their guard down and trust again. Eventually, as the new truth of love breaks through, the fear dissipates.
- It is the same with us. We can only love from knowing that we are loved and then imitate that love.
B. Become an offering to God.
- Verse 2 -… just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering, and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
- We need to ask ourselves: What did Christ give up? Firstly, he gave up his life, surrendering his physical body, even unto death.
- Many of us might never be asked in this country to die physically for Christ, but I can choose to give my body as an offering to God to be used for what he wants to use it. We are the physical hands, feet, mouths, ears, arms, and legs of God on this earth.
- The sad thing is that many times people have so many issues even with their physical bodies that it keeps them from being effectively used by God. This is a very practical point. If my worth is affected by my physical body, I might shy away from doing what God wants me to do because of my perception of myself.
- Many times, my offering might be as simple as being willing to be used with this imperfect body, because there are eternal things at stake.
- We cannot afford to be paralyzed by the lie of the enemy concerning our bodies. Christ was willing to die with his physical body and is calling us to see the bigger picture and die to our physical bodies as well.
- Secondly, Christ offered up all his privileges, his equality with God, his godly form, and chose to empty himself of all of this in obedience.
Philippians 2:5 – 8, Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
- We should ask ourselves, who had the most to lay down: Christ or I? One day we will see Him in all his glory and all that He was willing to offer up, and we will all the more stand in awe of what He did.
- Paul is telling us to have the same attitude as Christ had. In your personal life, God is mostly asking you to lay down that which is empty, broken, unfulfilled, and warped so that He can replace it with his fullness, wholeness, fulfillment, and life and then use it to impact others.
- But then He is also asking us to give our lives as a sacrifice, to be poured out as a drink offering as Paul called it. For what we sow in the mortal and physical world, we will reap exponentially in eternity.
- Not only in eternity, but we will see the fruit in our family, our church, and our community. This becomes a fragrant aroma unto God. This in return will give us true life; the joy and fulfillment of being effective with the life of God springing forth from inside us as we lay down ourselves.
- It is however important and freeing to understand what type of offering is acceptable to God. We see in the story of Cain and Abel that God did not accept Cain’s offering but did accept Abel’s offering. Why is that? Cain was offering from the fruit of his works. He was trying to gain acceptance from God by showing God what he could do. Abel, on the other hand, brought an animal offering which was a type of Christ. His was an offering of gratitude not an offering of works.
- The offering that God is interested in, is the offering of obedience and surrender. He is looking for us to surrender our will to His will so He can work in us to work and to will according to his purpose. This has the effect that the offering becomes a pleasure, not a burden. This becomes a fragrant aroma, something people can sense.
2 Corinthians 2:15 For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.
II. Be God’s Light in the World
- Verse 8 – Paul says that we must be light in the world. Firstly, we become a fragrant aroma, something people can sense. Secondly, we should also be the light that people can see.
A. Come out of the darkness
- From verse 3 – 6 Paul first start to define and give examples of the things of the darkness. Immorality, impurity, greed, filthy or silly talk, course joking; none of these should be present in a Christian’s life. Paul calls people who have this type of fruit sons of disobedience, and this draws God’s wrath.
- We saw this in chapter 4 as well, but once again this is a litmus test to us. The fact that there is a principle of God’s wrath being drawn by this type of behavior, should shock one to a standstill and bring one to a point of repentance.
- Our heart should be focused on giving thanks flowing from gratitude and hope, leaning on the Holy Spirit to changes from the inside.
- The image Paul uses when he uses the word ‘light’, is that it is something people will see. That is why the actions of the sons of disobedience is such a major problem. People can see it.
- Therefore, he warns in verse 7 not to be partakers of it. It will blemish your testimony and you will lose your moral authority and ability to help people. We need to be ones that people can look to as beacons of hope in this dark world.
- When they discern that you are the same as they are, they will not turn to you for help. They must sense and see something different to be drawn to it and be convinced that there is hope and a better life.
B. Walk as Children of Light.
- Verse 13 – All things become visible as it is exposed to the light. If everyone does the same thing, it becomes the norm and seems normal.
- This is only until someone starts to do something different. When you see someone doing something different, it forces you to stop, compare what you are doing with what the other person is doing, and choosing which way is the better way.
Illus. – Say for example, there are a group of friends or just bought new golf clubs and it is their first time at the driving range. All of them try to hit the ball the best they can in their own way with not much success. Then Tiger Woods pulls up with his car, climbs out, T’s up, and starts to hit the ball like they’ve never seen anyone hit a ball before. Immediately the light dawns on them and they start to assess: ‘We are not good at this. We are doing something wrong. He is much better at this. He must be doing something right. We should ask for help.’
- This is a practical way of understanding how we are the light in the world. By how we live, it shines a light on the lives of those around us without us saying a word. They are drawn to the hope of something better.
- Once again, it is not how you talk the talk, but how you walk the walk. Paul tells us what the walk looks like in verse 9. He calls it the fruit of the light which consists of goodness, righteousness, and truth.
Illus. – It is important to understand that we are not the light. Just as the moon of itself has no light, but reflects the light of the sun, we reflect the light of Christ. He is the source of light.
- Shine the Light of Goodness – God calls us to be good to other people. We see it in the parable of the good Samaritan. He didn’t have to help, but he chose to. What are the practical things you can do to help people?
Illus. The other day we were driving on 185th and suddenly a person in the car before us stopped dead, put on his hazards, and got out of the car. He went to the sidewalk and helped an elderly man with a walker over the busy street, stopping the traffic so he could get where he was going.
Romans 2:4, Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
- Be good to other people as God was good to you. God is calling us to goodness.
- Shine the Light of Righteousness – We live in righteousness because we are made righteous. You live according to who you are. We are made ‘right’ before God, so now we can live right. Princess and princesses don’t eat out of the garbage bins. We should not consume and be filled with the filth of the domain of darkness.
- Living in Righteousness will make others hungry for righteousness. To be able to ‘be right’ before God.
- Shine the Light of Truth – People are desperate for truth and for people who live truthfully. People who live in integrity. We don’t need more perfect people with perfect hair and perfect teeth and perfect bodies. We need real people who live in truth.
- People who can say, ‘I once was lost, but now I’m found’, sometimes I cry, but I have hope. Sometimes I hurt, but I know the Healer, Sometimes I struggle, but I trust in God.
- No one is perfect. We all struggle with things at times, but we serve a perfect God who loves us despite of it.
- When we live in truth, we have to acknowledge that we sometimes don’t have it all together, and it is okay. If we deny it, we are like the hypocrites Jesus called out. Then we run the risk of sitting on a high horse looking down on the ‘sinners’ around us. Then it is easy to become part of the cancel culture.
- Jesus is the truth, and the truth will set free. If we live in that truth, inviting people to walk with us as we grow in grace, it will set people free.
- Everyone asks: ‘What would Jesus do?’ First, we have to know what Jesus did.
- Ultimately, Jesus is the light. We imitate Christ. Look at his example. Let His Spirit lead you as you imitate Him.
3 But sexual immorality [c]or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among [d]saints; 4 and there must be no filthiness [e]or foolish talk, or vulgar joking, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know with certainty, that no sexually immoral or [f]impure or greedy person, which [g]amounts to an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
6 See that no one deceives you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the [h]sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 [i]as you try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Do not participate in the useless 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 [j]it says,
And arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.”