>For my expository preaching class, we had to identify a portion of Scripture that we could break into four consecutive units to preach as a series. I opted to work in the book of Ephesians, along with one of my classmates. I ended up with the back half of the letter, and I opted to prepare the middle two of the four sections.
Round 1 – Ephesians 5:1-20
Be Imitators of God
The late Dr Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ was to the very core of his being an evangelist. By the time I met him, just a few years before his death, he was not preaching to thousands at large events. He was confined to a wheelchair and unable to breathe well, so at this point in his life, much of the good news he spread was in one-on-one conversations with the people he met: the taxi driver or skycap, the waitress, the medical staff that cared for him. Dr. Bright loved to disarm people from the beginning by telling them what he called the first spiritual law: God loves you, and God has a wonderful plan for your life.
Paul had a similar message for the Ephesians, and for us, and for the body of believers across the generations. God loves the church, and God has a wonderful plan for its life. God has called the church to play a mission-critical role in reconciling all of creation to God. As if being Christ’s witnesses to the ends of the earth weren’t mission enough…
As the early churches, like the one in Ephesus, were forming, there were people from all sorts of backgrounds, which we typically divide into Jews and Gentiles – a catch-all category for those who weren’t part of the Jewish tradition. All of those folks together were meant to hear Paul’s words about growing to maturity in faith, so that together, in unity, they might take part in God’s cosmic plan.
And so he charges them
1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children and
live in the way of love,
just as Christ loved us and
gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice
We who are children of God are to imitate God and walk in the way of love.
We imitate God by loving like Christ.
And loving as Christ commanded:
Love God with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength
Love your neighbor as yourself.
Not unlike today, the early believers would have been surrounded from childhood by all manner of poor imitations of love…
And Gentiles would not have grown up learning the Ten Commandments or other codes of conduct like the Jews. If they were going to join their Jewish sisters and brothers in Christ’s witness to the world, both groups needed reminders of what love is and is not.
Coarse language and sexual immorality are far from love for our neighbors.
Loving God means walking away from idols, be they behaviors or possessions.
Being God’s holy people means walking away from impurity, greed and disobedience…
It seems like a tall order. For those first generations of Christians and for us.
How do we speak Thanksgiving
when so many voices prefer complaining and playing the victim?
How do we seek our inheritance in the Kingdom of God
in an economy driven by consuming rather than giving?
How do we imitate God in a world where darkness seems more abundant than light?
O beloved Children of God,
remember that Christ – The light of the world –
loved us, and
gave himself up for us
And now WE are light in the Lord.
And just as God has revealed that wonderful plan for the church universal,
God is faithful to reveal God’s will for this gathering of believers.
Look around you…
As Christ dwells in us
As the Spirit empowers us,
We are to make the most of every opportunity to
Live together as children of light
Bearing the fruit of the light
Gathering in those hiding in darkness of shame, guilt and sin
Emanating a warm glow of grace, love and mercy that eliminates shadows
and reveals a new creation
You see, Christ did not live, die and rise again that we might have a new rule book.
Christ came to shed light on the spirit, the heart, of the matter – LOVE.
Love that binds us to one another and to God
Love that inspires us to
speak to one another with
psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.
Love that inspires us to
Sing and make music from our hearts to the Lord,
Giving thanks to God the Father for everything,
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.