Summary: Just like a young son wants to imitate his father, Christians are to imitate our Heavenly Father.
1. An imitator of God walks in love (5:2-7)
a. Have loving relationships—purity of the body (3)
b. Use loving speech—purity of the tongue (4)
c. Maintain loving fellowship—purity of the church (5-7)
2. An imitator of God walks in light (5:8-14)
a. Expose the will of God—examine the Scriptures (10)
b. Expose the works of man—examine your works (11-12)
c. Expose the conviction of Christ—let Christ examine your heart (13-14)
3. An imitator of God walks in wisdom (5:15-16)
a. Be wise in present circumstances (15)
b. Be wise in eternal context (16)
I have to confess—my wife loves pictures. We have boxes and boxes of old snapshots. That’s one of the benefits of having a digital camera. Now the pictures just take up space in the computer instead of taking up space in the house. But looking through old pictures can be and emotional event, can’t it? When we see them, we can think of good times and we can think of bad times. Looking at them can bring joy and can bring sadness. One thing it does is remind us how fast time flies. Especially when you look at pictures of the kids and you see how fast they grow and are gone. Last year, we were going through some of our old pictures. As we were going through them we came across a picture of our oldest daughter. I don’t remember how old she was, but she was just a little-bitty thing. And there she was dressed up in Daddy’s red-neck clothes. She had on one of my old ball caps, one of my shirts, and was standing in a pair of my old cowboy boots. They almost went all the way up to her waist. That’s something that children like to do, isn’t it? They like to dress up in Mommy or Daddy’s clothes to try to imitate them. But our kids don’t only do cute stuff to imitate us. They imitate the way we talk and the way we walk and the way we act. Of course, most of the time it’s the bad stuff that they imitate quickest. But make no mistake, they watch, they learn, they imitate us. That’s the picture that Paul paints with the first verse of our passage this morning. Here in verse 1, he urges the Ephesian Christians to be followers of God. But the word that’s translated followers really has the meaning of being an imitator. He’s urging them to be more than just followers. He’s urging them to be imitators of God. He has been talking over the past several verses about the contrast between the old man prior to salvation and the new man we are in Christ. And now, he tells us how to live godly lives. Just like a young son wants to imitate his father, we need to imitate our Heavenly Father. That’s what I want of us this morning. I want each of us here this morning to be imitators of God. In order to be an imitator of God, we have to know what that looks like. So, this morning, we will be looking at three traits of a God imitator. The first trait is that an imitator of God walks in love.
An imitator of God walks in love. I think it was that great, profound 20th century thinker Tina Turner that asked the musical question, What’s love got to do with it? Well, what does love have to do with our daily lives? When this verse says we are to walk in love, that means love is supposed to be at the core of everything we do. It’s supposed to permeate all of our existence. The problem is, we don’t understand what love is. We think of love as some sort of sappy emotion. Or some sort of warm fuzzy feeling. Apparently that was a problem with the Ephesian Christians as well. They must have had trouble understanding what love really is too. Because Paul gave them an example. He said that they were to love as Jesus loved them. Well, how much was that? I remember when I was little. My Pawpaw gave me a little wooden sign. It had a picture of a man standing with his arms open wide. And at the bottom it said, “I love you this much.” That’s what Jesus did. He said, “I love you this much.” And He stretched out His arms on the cross of Calvary and died for you. That’s the kind of love that Paul says we are supposed to walk in. That’s the kind of love he says is supposed to be characteristic of the way we live our lives. If you are a Christian this morning. If you carry the name of Christ because He is your Lord and Savior, you’re supposed to walk in the same kind of love He did. That kind of love is a self-sacrificial love. It places the needs and wants and desires of other people above our own. It offers itself in service as a sweet-smelling offering. It is willing to serve others no matter what the personal cost. Whether they ask for service or not. Whether they deserve to be served or not. Whether they appreciate being served or not. How did Judas repay Jesus’ service of washing his feet? Think about it. Jesus knew Judas would betray Him as He knelt there on the ground and unconditionally served him. Just like He knew how He would be mocked and rejected by the very people He would be dying for just a few hours later. That’s how we are to serve. That’s how we are to love. Unconditionally. This passage shows us that that kind of unconditional love shows itself in three ways. First, it shows itself in preserving loving relationships. Look at what Paul groups together here in verse 3. It seems obvious that fornication and uncleanness would go together. Fornication is sexual contact outside the sacred bounds of marriage. Uncleanness is just another word for sexual nastiness—immorality, sexual impurity. So he covers sex outside of marriage by talking about fornication. And he covers all other physical contact of a sexual nature outside of marriage by talking about uncleanness. But just in case there was any doubt, he threw in covetousness. Covetousness is wanting what somebody else has—desiring it as an object of personal pleasure without regard for the other person. I love you for how you make me feel. For what you do for me. You see, it’s the opposite of the way Jesus loves us. He loves us knowing we can’t do anything at all for Him. Our relationships with each other are to reflect Christ. As such, they must be selfless and unconditional. They cannot take into account anything about the other person other than they are loved by Jesus, so they must be loved by us. Walking in love not only shows itself in preserving loving relationships, it shows itself in preserving loving speech. Loving speech is gracious and thankful. It is forgiving and kind. The words that Paul uses here are interesting. Filthiness is from the word which means to use obscenities. Cursing and swearing—using dirty words. Foolish talking comes from the same word we get the word moron from. This is the kind of talk that easily makes it in PG movies and is passed off as humor most of the time. Gutter humor—potty humor fits this category. Jesting, on the other hand, isn’t just a term for dirty jokes. Most dirty jokes fit into the other categories. Jesting, or crude joking as some translations say, is talking about innuendo. Innuendo seems to be a favorite pastime today. It is taking perfectly innocent situations or words and giving them dirty connotations. When we walk in love, we use our tongue to build each other up. Not tear each other down. We magnify God and His creation. Not ourselves and our sharp wit. Walking in unconditional love shows itself in loving relationships, loving speech and by preserving a loving fellowship. You see, if we as a church have unloving relationships and we use unloving speech, God won’t have any part of us. He will not allow us to participate in building His kingdom. Because of that, Paul gives us a serious warning in verse 7. He says that when we see stuff like that going on around us, we’re not to have any part of it. In order to walk in love, we can’t walk in immorality. We can’t walk in greed and selfishness. We can’t walk in impure actions and language. We can’t walk in empty, vain, useless words. To walk like Christ calls us to walk means that we walk in love. Loving relationships, loving speech and a loving fellowship. Walking in love is the first trait of a God imitator. The second trait is that a God imitator walks in light.