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Summary: This sermon series asks the question - Do we really look like Jesus? Are we disciples or are we just tagging along? Are we becoming imitators of God?

The Next Best Thing

Eight Secrets to Imitating Christ Pt 1

Ephesians 5

Just recently as I flipped through the channels one night during a particularly fruitless ballgame in which my Braves were being trounced, I came across a peculiar show. It must be new for summer but it was called The Next Best Thing. I admit from the title of the show I would have never guessed what the show was about. There on the stage were men and women impersonating everyone from Elvis Presley to President Bush. I only caught the last 2 or 3 minutes so I honestly don’t know if the show was any good or not but as I looked through the finalists - some of them looked pretty convincing.

The Apostle Paul writes a compelling challenge in Ephesians chapter 5 for those of us who are in Christ; “be imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you…” These celebrity impersonators were judged on how well they looked, sounded, and acted like the personality they were impersonating. I started wondering as I sat down to write this week how well we would do if we were living on a stage and someone was to judge how much we looked, sounded, and acted like Jesus. How well would you do? If like most of us you might get kicked off halfway through the show - then this next two weeks is for you. You see Paul doesn’t leave us guessing about how to make this happen in our lives. He coaches us in chapter 5 with eight secrets for looking like Jesus - eight secrets to being “The Next Best Thing” to Christ.

In the first 13 verses of this chapter Paul gives a picture of what it looks like to be a Christ impersonator; walking in love, fleeing immorality, not participating in the coarseness of the world, living in purity, radiating the light of Christ. These things and more represent the criteria on which our impersonation will be judged but how do we get there. Paul turns his attention to those details starting in verse 15 as he coaches our life.

1) Paul says Be Careful How You Walk - (v.15) - The Greek word that Paul uses is the word blepo it means to watchful, wary, or cautious. Paul encourages us to be very careful about how we walk. I’m not sure that we approach life this way. Too often we go though life not thinking just doing. We trudge though life just reacting to whatever happens heedless of what is around us instead of being careful how we do things. The truth is that we should begin handling life like we handle power tools, firearms, and fireworks; with a healthy dose of respect and fear. What I have found out about all those things is that the day you stop having a healthy fear of them is the day you are going to hurt yourself. Paul warns the church at Corinth “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” God warns Joshua as he takes the reigns of Israel “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.” The day you stop having a healthy fear of falling is the day you begin to stumble. Be cautious and watchful in your living - realize that you may be the only piece of Jesus some people ever see. What do the people around you think about Jesus from watching your life? James warned the people in his epistle “be doers of the word not mearly hearers who delude themselves.” Belief and behavior cannot be separated. What do people around you think about Jesus when they listen to the words that come out of your mouth? James again warned the people that the tongue is a restless evil “with it we bless our Lord and Father and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My bretheren it ought not be this way.” Watch your mouth, watch where you feet lead you, watch what your hands are involved in, be careful what your eyes linger on. Are you the next best thing to Jesus?

2) Make The Most of Your Life (v.16) - Time - it’s really what life is. A huge conglomeration of moments, opportunities, decisions, and possibilities. It’s amazing how fast time goes by - how fast our lives are spent. Last Sunday my wife and I celebrated our 18th anniversary. It seems like only yesterday that we began our lives together - now 18 years and three children later - we look back and wonder where all the time has gone. The truth is that time is the great equalizer of men - no one has any more or any less of it in a given day. To each day is allotted 24 hours, 1440 minutes and no one gets any more or less. Our problem when it comes to time is not that we have too little - it’s making better use of the time we have. At the age of ten, Scottish missionary and explorer Dr. David Livingstone began working 14 hours a day in a cotton mill. It would have been easy for him to forsake his education and simply not have time to succeed in life like so many others around him. Instead he learned Latin by sixteen and by age 27 had finished degrees in both medicine and theology. It’s not a matter of how much time you have it’s a matter of how you spend the time you have. I actually don’t like the NASB translation here - the word that Paul uses is exagorazo - and it means to buy up, to purchase, or to redeem. His point is that our time is like making a purchase - we exchange time for certain occupations or activities. The question becomes have you spent your time well? The secret to godly living is in spending each moment wisely. I have never heard a man or woman on their death bed regretting the money they could have made, or the car they could have had - I have heard many regretting the time they could have spent with their families or raising their children in Christ. So much wasted time, so many wasted years, so many wasted lives. Are you the next best thing to Jesus?

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