Do you remember of your childhood, or have experienced this with your own children, when a child would copycat an adult? Sometimes it may have been done out of disrespect, but usually it was done out of admiration. Some children may copy others because they love and respect the person. Jesus calls us to imitate Him, in the way He lived His life and in the way He died.
The main passage is Ephesians 5:1-2: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”
However, that passage is a continuation of Ephesians 4, so let’s look at the context for this passage in Ephesians 4:17-32 on into Ephesians 5:1-2: “So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another. BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”
2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”
Luke 9:18-25 says, “And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, “Who do the people say that I am?” They answered and said, “John the Baptist, and others say Elijah; but others, that one of the prophets of old has risen again.” And He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.” And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?”
It’s one thing to know about God, but it’s another thing to know God. One is head knowledge and the other is heart knowledge. Many people may know about your spouse, or even know your spouse, but you know your spouse more than anyone else. Those who spend more time with God know God more. A head knowledge of the Bible or of God is completely worthless if it is not coupled with actually following Jesus and spending time with Him.
Deitrich Bonhoeffer put it very strongly: “The call of Jesus teaches us that our relation to the world has been built on an illusion. All the time we thought we had enjoyed a direct relation with men and things. This is what had hindered us from faith and obedience. Now we learn that in the most intimate relationships of life, in our kinship with father and mother, brothers and sisters, in married love, and in our duty to the community, direct relationships are impossible. Between father and son, husband and wife, the individual and the nation, stands Christ the Mediator, whether they are able to recognize Him or not. We cannot establish direct contact outside ourselves except through him, through his word, and through our following of him. To think otherwise is to deceive ourselves. But since we are bound to abhor any deception which hides the truth from our sight, we must of necessity repudiate any direct relationship with the things of this world-and that for the sake of Christ. Wherever a group, be it large or small, prevents us from standing alone before Christ, wherever such a group raises a claim of immediacy it must be hated for the sake of Christ. For every immediacy, whether we realize it or not, means hatred of Christ, and this is especially true where such relationships claim the sanction of Christian principles” (Bonhoeffer 108). These two paragraphs are very strongly worded. I think these words are great, but they also can be taken to the extreme. I don’t think that God wants us to live monk-like lives, but I do think that living our lives out for Christ and “abstain[ing] from every form of evil,” as 1 Thessalonians 5:22 commands, are essential to following Christ. Romans 12:2 seems to also support this.
Romans 12:2: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
We must follow Christ’s example in all aspects of life, especially in these six specific areas of life.
The 1st point is: “We must follow Christ’s example in having a passion for holiness.” Christ lived a life of holiness. Christ demands holiness from us. Even as Christians, we sin at times, but we are holy, set apart for God for a purpose. We just read Romans 12:2, but let’s read Romans 12:1-2 since it has a good flow and deals with holiness as well. “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
1 Peter 1:13-16 says, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.'”
1 John 2:1-6 says, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin, And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected; By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.”
John Owen, in his work The Mortification of Sin, said,”Sin sets its strength against every act of holiness, and every degree of spiritual growth. We will not be making progress in holiness without walking over the bellies of our lusts [sins]. He who does not kill sin along the way is making no progress in his journey.” 1 Thessalonians 5:22 says, “abstain from every form of evil.”
Jesus at times had a righteous anger. He acted out of anger in response to the temple being corrupted. Matthew 21:12-13 says, “And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER’; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.”
The 2nd point is: “We must follow Christ’s example in having a passion for patience.” 1 Timothy 1:15-17 says, “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Even though I was outwardly patient before, until about two years ago, I was not very patient inwardly. During the past two years, God has dealt with that in me. Between graduating college and going to seminary, then having to come back to Huntsville to get more money so I can actually pay for seminary, I have not inwardly been patient. I was heavily involved on campus at my university, so I did not have as much time to devote to studies as I should have had. Inwardly, I was trying to graduate early so I could get started on the things God had in store for me. However, that is not God’s plan for me right now. Instead, He is showing me that I have to wait on Him and not try to get ahead of Him. It may be a good thing to want to be a missionary, but as I am slowly taking classes online right now, it seems as though it could take years to graduate from seminary. I love an idea I have heard before. “If someone prays for patience, does God gives them patience or the opportunity to be patient?” This may not always be the case, but I think this sums up faith in action. Testing seems to be a way that God answers prayers. We may go through trials, but in the end, the trials end up being a way for God to show how faithful we are to Him.
1 Peter 1:3-9 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.”
If I were to get a quarter every time I heard the phrase “Patience is a virtue,” I would be wealthy right now. I say this to say that if our culture is even willing to admit that patience is a virtue, we as Christians certainly should live our lives to reflect that.
2 Peter 3:8-9 says, “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
The 3rd point is: “We must follow Christ’s example in having a passion for humility.” Philippians 2 is a good passage to look at to be reminded of Christ’s humility. Philippians 2:1-18 says, “Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.”
2 Timothy 2:22-26 says, “Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.”
Micah 6:6-8 says, “With what shall I come to the LORD And bow myself before the God on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, With yearling calves? Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams, In ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?”
James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” This exaltation is to show God’s power through redemption, and what more powerful way is there to show humility than for God to come down to earth in a humble manner to redeem us?
The 4th point is: “We must follow Christ’s example in having a passion for suffering.” Suffering is a word we really don’t like to talk about or hear. However, it happens to us sometimes even here in America. Christians all around the world get persecuted. We are blessed here in America to be able to live out our faith in freedom. However, Jesus does tell us that suffering will happen to us sometime in our life. John 15:18-22 says, “‘If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. ‘If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. ‘Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master ‘ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. ‘But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. ‘If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.'”
The Bible describes the Christian life as akin to being in the military. Why is being a Christian like being in the military? I think the obvious answer is because of the spiritual warfare that goes on, but I think that the comparison can go much further. Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy about the fact that as Christians, we may have to go without the things in life that may seem appealing but in reality are either dangerous or not wholesome. We will have to suffer, even if our suffering at times simply means going without what may appear as good, or even acceptable, things. 2 Timothy 2:2-10 says, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.”
Also, another good verse to show us true sacrifice is John 15:13, which says, “‘Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” Matthew 24:3-14 says, “As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’ And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.'” It is hard to imagine that we here in the United States of America will have tribulation and will possibly be killed for our faith, but the Bible does say that this will happen sometime in the future.
The 5th point is: “We must follow Christ’s example in having a passion for learning.” Luke 2:41-52 says, “Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He became twelve, they went up there according to the custom of the Feast; and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. But His parents were unaware of it, but supposed Him to be in the caravan, and went a day’s journey; and they began looking for Him among their relatives and acquaintances. When they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem looking for Him. Then, after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. When they saw Him, they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, ‘Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.’ And He said to them, ‘Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?’ But they did not understand the statement which He had made to them. And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” I personally think it’s hard to understand how an omniscient, or all-knowing, God can come down from Heaven and yet have to learn as we do. However, this being the case, how much more do we have to have a passion for learning. Let’s examine Philippians 2 a little closer. We just looked at, but let’s read verses 5 to 8 again.
Philippians 2:5-8: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Christ gave up the knowledge He had as God and communicated with God through prayer. He made His human knowledge a blank slate and showed us what it is truly like to have a perfect relationship with God. I have some good news and some bad news: the bad news is that we can never attain fully the relationship that Jesus had with God; however, the good news is that the more we improve that relationship, the closer to Jesus we become.
The 6th point is: “We must follow Christ’s example in having a passion for children.” Mark 10:13-16 says, “And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.”
Aganakteo is the Greek word that shows the anger (or indignation) Jesus had toward His disciples when they were hindering the children. Aganakteo means “to be moved with indignation,” and is only used seven times in the Bible, and the other times, the word was used by the disciples when James and John’s mother came to ask Jesus if her sons could sit on Jesus’ left and right in Heaven. It was also used by the Synagogue leader when Jesus healed a woman on the Sabbath. The other time it was used was by the disciples when a woman had poured the expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. It is obvious, therefore, that Jesus had a passion for children, and we should also share this same passion.
We should also have a passion for children and people around the world in need, in particular the orphan and the widow. Isaiah 1:16-20 says, “‘Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight, Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow. ‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ Says the LORD, ‘Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool. ‘If you consent and obey, you will eat the best of the land; ‘But if you refuse and rebel, You will be devoured by the sword.’ Truly, the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
We should, and must, act on what is taught to us. It would be irrational for us to hear something we need to work on and say, “I wish I could do this better, or I wish I could do that better. Maybe I will do this or that in a few months, or in a few weeks.” How do we act upon our faith, then? I have not read this book yet, but I have heard that Mark Dever used this illustration in his book The Message of the New Testament: “When glass skyscrapers were first built and popularized in the 1950s, a number of office-workers were scared of working in offices thirty, forty, and even fifty stories above the ground with nothing visible stopping the plunge downward. Reader’s Digest once carried a story about on of these earliest skyscrapers, describing how a number of people in one office could not work because their desks were too close to the massive windows. The people knew there was a glass window between them and the drop, but they were not used to the idea that glass could act as a barrier. It was causing enough trouble in the office that the building manager was contacted. He came up and told them about the design of the frame and thickness of the glass; he explained how it could hold so much stress and even gave and example. But they were still nervous. The building manager was perplexed about what to do. So he brought up a structural engineer who explained it all again. Still they did not feel comfortable looking down that distance. Then the engineer said, ‘I have an idea.’ He called everyone to stand by the inside wall, which they did. He stepped back, and then ran full speed toward the glass wall, hit it with his full weight, and bounced off. He was fine! He was willing to throw his whole life against the glass wall because he knew it could take it!”
The book of James also has a good exhortation to inspire us to act on our faith. James 1:23-27 says, “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
As Christians, we should grow more and more passionate about children. I know that this is a specific passion that Christ had, among others, but I do believe that it should be one of our major ones. Also, we should be involved in helping the orphans and widows as well as the poor.
God takes care of His children. Isaiah 41:17-20 says: “‘The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the LORD, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them. ‘I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. ‘I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress, That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the LORD has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.'”
One last time, let’s look at the main passage, Ephesians 5:1-2, keeping in mind the context of the sermon. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”
In closing, Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” For those of us who are Christians, we should be reminded daily of the “race that is set before us“.
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship. New York, MacMillan Publishing Co., inc.; 1979, trans. By Chr. Kaiser Verlag München.
Dever, Mark. The Message of the New Testament. Wheaton, Crossway Books; 2005;
Owen, John. The Mortification of Sin. Carlisle, Pennsylvania; The Banner of Truth Trust; 2007, 10
“Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.”