Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Sep 27 2013 - Ephesians 5:3-33 – Imitators of God

"Be imitators of God" writes Paul in Ephesians 5:1. In this he echoes the calling of God upon his redeemed people Israel, "Be holy because I am holy" (Leviticus 11:45). But this calling is now centred in Christ; "... 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."

We are to imitate God by following Jesus Christ, learning of him, and becoming like him. In particular, our lives are to be shaped by the love that has appeared in Christ, a devotion to the benefit and blessing of others rather than looking after number one. That is why Paul can write a few verses later, no "greedy person – such a man is an idolater – has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." (5:5). Greed is a form of self-worship, making oneself and one's own wants the centre of all things. It is the complete opposite of the character of Jesus Christ.

Here is one key area where imitating God calls us to swim against the tide of our acquisitive culture – a culture that can even declare that "Greed is good." A person's life does not consist in the number of things that they possess. Life, in all its fullness, is found in knowing God through the Lord Jesus Christ; living in fellowship with him and living for him. Every moment is to be devoted to his service, "a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God"

Paul calls us to live mindfully rather to drift along with the current of this world’s stream: “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (5:15-16). Be intentional in the things you do, seeking to discern the will of God through the wisdom he gives by his Spirit. Seek not only to avoid doing what is evil or unhelpful, but look for opportunities to do good, to be a blessing to others and to make Christ known.

But there is more to the Christian life than us seeking to imitate Christ. If that were the sum and substance of God's calling upon us we would soon be crushed by our own sense of failure – we are not Jesus. We need to remember that we can only become like him as he lives in and through us. Hence Paul exhorts the Christians at Ephesus to "keep on being filled with the Spirit" (5:18). We need the daily help and empowerment of the Spirit if we are to grow in likeness to Christ; it is not something we can do on our own. And we need the encouragement of one another, for Paul encourages his readers to speak “to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:19-20).

Last week I attended the memorial service for a wonderful Christian lady. Her children, grandchildren and even some great-grandchildren were there. It was wonderful to hear the testimony of her family that Margaret was always cheerful, even when she faced times of difficulty and trial. She was always singing hymns and Christian songs as she went about her work, waking the family in the morning with her singing. Her life was a living testimony to the blessings of knowing Christ and brought blessing to others. She remains an example of what it means to live for Christ. 

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Melt me, mould me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.

Make me like God. Make me like Christ. Make me a blessing today.

Peter Misselbrook