Summary: God calls us to imitate him.
Preached August 10, 2003
Someone once said, “Imitation is the highest form of flattery.” Any parent knows this is true. You’re out in the garage, carefully pounding some nails in that dresser you’ve been refurbishing. As anybody with any wood working sense knows, you must be very careful pounding those finishing nails in lest you put a gaudy dent in your final product. Suddenly, you hear pounding next to you. There’s your son with the same expression of deep concentration as you have on your face, tongue out the side of his mouth, with a hammer in his hand. He’s beating the tar out of your dresser. He says, “Look, daddy, I’m just like you.” Dents all over your masterpiece! You’re furious, yet flattered, because he wanted to be just like you. Imitation is the highest form of flattery.
The same is true when it comes to God. If you want to flatter God (worship him) there is no better way than imitating him. And, looking back over Ephesians, we can’t help but wanting to flatter God. Remember, he blessed us with every spiritual blessing; he chose us to be his children from eternity; he bought us back for himself in Jesus’ blood; he sealed us for heaven in Jesus; he made us alive when we were dead in sins; he saved us by grace; he made us citizens of heaven; he welcomes you into his presence at any time; he does immeasurably more than all you ask or imagine.
Last week in our lesson, Paul used the world as an example of what we should not do; today Paul gives us examples of what we should do to imitate and flatter the God who has done so much for us.
Eph 4:30 – 5:2 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. 5:1 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (NIV)
She was a girl with endless possibilities. She was great with people. She was beautiful. She was kind-hearted. She played the piano perfectly by ear. But she gave it all up. As my sister Amy drifted away from God and my parents, it filled their heart with ache. As she slept around, refused to get a job, lived with her boyfriend and married him without so much as an invitation to her family, it brought torrents of tears. When she got divorced after her baby was born, as she wandered around aimlessly without a job, as she told lies about her family and her past, my parents put on a brave face, but the grief only grew.
In our lesson, Paul tells us not to grieve God like that. You see, our bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander and refusing to forgive all grieve God. They grieve him because a good Father hates to see his children hurt themselves and others. He knows how these awful attitudes destroy us and others. They ruin his church and get in the way of his work.
Are you harboring bitterness in your life? We all struggle with it. Maybe it’s family. Families sometimes seem to bring out the worst in us. I’ve said horribly insulting things to my brother I wouldn’t dream of saying to others. Familiarity often does breed contempt in this sinful world. Maybe it’s bitterness over a personality clash from years ago or differences of opinion. Maybe he talks about you behind your back; maybe she rubs you the wrong way or intimidates you. Maybe he sabotages everything you do. Maybe she doesn’t respect you. Maybe they have something you don’t like looks, popularity or money. Max Lucado writes, “Doesn’t someone owe you something? An apology? A second chance? A fresh start? An explanation? A thank you? A childhood? A marriage? Stop and think about it (which I don’t encourage you to do for long), and you can make a list of a lot of folks who are in your debt. Your parents should have been more protective. Your children should have been more appreciative. Your spouse should be more sensitive. Your preacher should have been more attentive.” (Great House of God, Lucado, p. 121) There’s always something to make us bitter.
That bitterness grieves God as we hurt ourselves and others. Yes, we hurt ourselves. Max Lucado goes on to write, “Ever notice that we describe the people who bug us as a “pain in the neck”? Whose neck are we referring to? Certainly not theirs. We are the ones who suffer.” (The Great House of God, Lucado, p. 123) Bitterness shackles us, it consumes our conscience. We suffer; we sin; we sabotage our relationship with the loving, heavenly Father and those we love.