Summary: How we act and how we speak to each other really does matter to God. You may be just mirroring what you see people doing and saying around you - but is it right?
The cover story of the September 14th issue of Newsweek magazine is very revealing about our culture today. The story is entitled: "How to say no to your kids." What I found interesting wasn’t the tips of saying "no" but on why it’s so hard for parents to do it.
Some statistics jump off the page: today families with 3 to 12 year olds spend $53.8 billion dollars annually on entertainment - that’s up over 17 billion in just six years. Last year 17-19 year olds spent about 175 billion, 53 billion more than in 1997.
Having things has become an epidemic addiction among today’s young people. In fact, 53% of kids say buying certain products makes them feel better about themselves. Parents say it makes them lazy and self centered - kids who will grow up as adults that are more vulnerable to future anxiety and depression.
William Damon, director of the Stanford University Center on Adolescence says "You sit around feeling anxious all the time instead of figuring out what you can do to make a difference in the world."
What it is, quite simply, is greed run amuck. The American Heritage Dictionary defines greed as: "An excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth."
In Chapter 4 of Ephesians - verse 19 - Paul talks about impurity and "a continual lust for more." That’s greed.
Why is greed bad? Because it is self - I want, I deserve, I must have - but then when we get what we think we want, it only makes us want more.
Jesus talked about a man in Luke 12 who was so successful in accumulating wealth that he decided to build bigger barns and then just kick back and enjoy - not knowing that that very night he was going to die and as Psalm 49:17 says that in death a man will "take nothing with him when he dies." Our greed and our possessions that result from it are useless - no matter what your destination.
So what’s the cause? We are a nation of consumers. Consumerism is a religion - if we do not consume we are unpatriotic - it keeps the economy going. It’s what we are fed day and night constantly over the TV, radio, billboards - everywhere - buy buy buy. It’s no wonder we have raised a generation of the greedy - modeled expertly by us parents.
So why go into all of this? Because as followers of Jesus Christ - we must not let ourselves be wooed into things like greed - one example of the pervasive values of the world that permeates even the church.
Today we’re going to hear the Apostle Paul tell us to stop imitating what we see around us because it will do us no good, will not further God’s kingdom and will not follow us into eternal life. There is someone else that we should imitate - and hearing this might hit kind of close to home for some of us.
Today let the Holy Spirit convict you as He wills - to do some surgery in your life and mine as we look at the first 20 verses of Ephesians Chapter 5.
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.
"imitators" (followers in KJV) is the Greek word from which we get the English word "mimic." A mimic sees someone do something and does the same. Have you ever seen a little child watch how their daddy sits - and readjust their position to be exactly alike? That’s what are to be with our Father in Heaven - why? Because we are His children - not the children of this world.
How do we do that? By "living a life of love - following, or mimicking the example of Jesus’ love for us by laying down His life.
Paul will tell us more specifics as we make our way through the chapter - but basically living a life of love means to love God, then let His love seep out of you to others. I know that seems elementary - but if you really allow His Spirit to take control of you in this way it will revolutionize your life and free you from the bondage so often associated with greed - and the other things we are going to talk about.
There are seven things Paul lists in the next paragraph -
Hints of sexual immorality, impurity, greed, obscenity, foolish talk, coarse joking, and being deceived.
3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.