“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV
This is a tall order, to be imitators of God, but this is what we are commanded to do. And, to imitate God is not to mock him, or to impersonate him, but it is to be like him – to model our lives after his life. It is to emulate him in all that we are and do and think and say.
But, to be like God, we have to first know God by personal God-given faith in Jesus Christ, who is God, and who is the Son of God. And, so we have to first of all be crucified with Christ, by faith in him, in death to sin, and then be resurrected with him, by the Spirit of God, to new lives in Christ Jesus our Lord, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:17-24; Rom. 6:1-23; Rom. 8:1-17; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; Lu. 9:23-26).
Then, we are filled with the Spirit of God who then empowers us to become like God; like Jesus. But, then we have to step out in faith and do what God requires of us in order that we will be like him.
And, this involves daily dying to sin and self, and daily putting on the armor of God, and daily resisting the devil, and fleeing temptation, and drawing near to God, and walking in obedience to our Lord’s commands (Lu. 9:23-26; Rom. 8:1-17; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; Eph. 6:10-20).
Then, as we walk daily by the Spirit of God, we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, and we will grow in our knowledge of God and in our fellowship with him, and we will become more and more like him in all that we do and are.
Walking in His Love
And, we will walk (in lifestyle, in conduct, in practice) in God’s love, which prefers what God prefers, which is what is holy, righteous, pure, honest, moral, and faithful. And, we will love others like God loves us, which is self-sacrificially, thinking of what is best, wholesome and good for others, and doing to them what is truly best for them, as God defines best (or good).
Thus, we are not going to lie to other people, not even if it is just to make them feel good. It doesn’t mean we have to be blunt or obtuse in what we say to people, but that we shouldn’t lie to them, even if we think we are being “nice.” We aren’t going to tell them what they want to hear, but we are going to tell them what they need to hear, for that is what Jesus did.
And, we will put others above ourselves in the sense that we will willingly do what is right for them, what is good, what is best for them, even if it means being hated, rejected and persecuted in return, for that is what Jesus did.
For, they didn’t put Jesus to death on a cross for being a “nice guy.” They put him to death because he challenged people in their sinful practices, and he spoke the truth to them in love, and he was honest, and he told them the truth about their sins, and he warned of judgment, and he called people to repentance and to obedience to him for salvation from sin and for eternal life with God (Lu. 9:23-26; Jn. 10:27-30; Jn. 6:35-66; Jn. 14:23-24).
So, when we do the same, we are also giving ourselves up for the good of others, for what is best for them, which is that they believe in Jesus Christ with God-given faith which dies with Christ to sin and which lives to God and to his righteousness in the power of God’s Holy Spirit within them.
“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” Ephesians 5:3-6 ESV
If we are becoming like Jesus Christ, and if we are walking (in practice) in his love, then there will be no room for the flesh. We will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh because we are walking (in practice) by the Spirit of God. So, sin will no longer be what we practice, but instead we will be those who put holiness and godliness into practice in our lives, by the Spirit of God.
We will realize that love for others and love for God is not an emotion, not a feeling, but it is what we do. I am not saying, though, that our feelings or our emotions are not engaged in this kind of love, but that they are not critical to us loving others as God loves us. And, I am saying that this kind of love is not based in how we feel, but it is love in action which demonstrates true love by us acting in love towards others regardless of how we feel.
Also, many people confuse love and lust, and they are definitely not the same. For lust is selfish. It is focused totally on self, and on what the flesh desires, regardless of how that lusting after others devalues and injures others; regardless of who gets hurt in the process. So, a man or a woman may claim to “love” another person, but if they then make it their practice to devalue, to objectify, to cheat, lie to, steal from, commit adultery against or otherwise do that other person harm, then that isn’t love.
No Part in Them
So, all these things such as sexual immorality and all impurity is not to be a part of our lives or part of the life of the church. They shouldn’t be even hinted at among us. We should have no part in them, whether it is through reading books, listening to music, or watching TV shows, movies and videos with sensuality in them, or whether it is through actual sexual acts outside of the confines of marriage. Our thinking and our conduct are to be pure.
So, we need to purge these things from our lives. We need to cut out of our lives everything that is leading us into sin or anything that is impure or immoral that is feeding our minds with junk that is opposing purity and righteousness from taking hold in our lives. And, then we need to fill our minds with the Word of God and with what is pure and lovely, and we need to walk in obedience to our Lord instead of walking according to the flesh.
For, we need to understand here that if we make any of these things our practice, i.e. if we are adulterers, liars, thieves, etc., as our habit, as who we are, by our conduct, in what we regularly and consistently go to over and over again (cyclically), then it says here that we don’t have an inheritance with God in heaven but the wrath of God is going to come against those who walk in disobedience to God’s commands, because they refused to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ over their lives and thus be saved.
“Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“’Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.’
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:7-16 ESV
So, not only are we not to walk according to the flesh, to fulfill the lustful desires of our flesh, but we are not to be partners (best friends and close companions) with those who do, too. We are not to take into our inner circle of friends and confidants those who make such things their practice, for bad company corrupts good character. If we are not careful, and if we are not guarded in these matters, we may then find that we are becoming like those we are around rather than us becoming like God; like Jesus.
So, choose your close friends and partners (associates) wisely, in prayer. And, this is especially true of church fellowships, too. Think about and pray about what kind of influence you are receiving from your local body of fellowship. What are they teaching you? What compromises are they making? How much of the world and the lusts of the flesh are being incorporated into your worship services or into your teaching and training?
What is the gospel message that is being taught at your local fellowship? Is it a cheap grace gospel which gives free license to continue in your sinful practices without guilt? Or is it God’s true grace which instructs you to say “No!” to ungodliness and fleshly lusts, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return? (Titus 2:11-14)
Consider these things prayerfully, and ask the Lord to give you the discernment that you need to know truth from lies, and love from lust, and true grace from cheap grace, and godly influences from ungodly influences. Then, give up what is not of God and what is leading you in the wrong direction, and focus your minds and your ears and your eyes on what is of God and what will lead to righteous and holy living to the glory of God.
Through it all,
through it all,
I’ve learned to trust in Jesus,
I’ve learned to trust in God.
Through it all,
through it all,
I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.
By Andraé Crouch