We’ve been working our way through the book of Ephesians in this “Identified” series. We’re learning to allow God to define us as we find our identity in Christ. (Click to catch up) Today we’re starting Ephesians 5 to learn about our call to be an imitator of God. We’re not supposed to look like the world anymore. We should stand out and be a bright light in the darkness. We should be living in the light of our Lord and Savior, looking more and more like Him with each passing day.
I Am Called to Be an Imitator of God
Ephesians 5:1-5 – Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are His dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered Himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.
Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.
Imitate God, it says. It’s a command! I am called to be an imitator or God, and not just some of the time either. I’m commanded to be imitator of God in everything I do!
Friends, we CANNOT miss this important part of our new identity in Christ! We can’t think that we’ll be able to go on living like the rest of the world once we’ve experienced life as a new creation.
We can’t go on allowing immorality to live unchecked in our hearts. We have to be committed to purity! We can’t be greedy, constantly looking out for our own interests. We have to die to self. We can’t go on being the “funny one” who gets everyone laughing or part of the group of gossipers by allowing things to come out of our mouths that would be displeasing to our Lord. That is not for us!
We have to wake up to the fact that this world has nothing to offer us anymore. We’ve experienced the life-giving freedom of salvation, and now we MUST put to death the idols that still hold pieces of our hearts and turn the whole thing over to the One who saved us! Only then can the Holy Spirit have free reign to conform us into the image of Christ. Only then can we be an imitator of God.
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What Does it Mean to be an Imitator of God?
Knowing we need to be imitators of God is one thing, but the Bible doesn’t leave us to guess what that is going to look like fleshed out in practical ways. It tells us plainly.
1 Peter 2:21-23 – For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in His steps.
He never sinned, nor deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when He was insulted, nor threaten revenge when He suffered. He left His case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.
John 13:34-35 – So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are My disciples.
Philippians 2: 3–11 – Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.
Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.
When He appeared in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
I see Scripture giving us four major markers of an imitator of God.
- Love (Check out this post on what it looks like to imitate the love of God at unmasking the Mess)
- Obedience to God
In every one of those four qualities we find that putting others first is going to result. Living our lives to serve others in a way that glorifies God will define us. Though we know and understand our high position as children of God, we will not use that identity to elevate ourselves. Rather, it will humble us, just as Jesus humbled Himself, even though He was God!
An imitator of God also understands the absolute sovereignty of our Savior, and wholeheartedly trusts Him. (Click to read more about who God is and why we can trust Him) From this place, we won’t need to defend ourselves or fight for our cause, we will be able to instead confidently leave it in the hands of God. Even when we are being mistreated.
Make no mistake, Jesus suffered greatly. An imitator of God will to. But like Christ, our sights will be set on our eternal reward, which has the power to diminish our present troubles. (Click for more on who Jesus is) An eternal perspective keeps us focused on the greater goal of seeing the Kingdom of Heaven increased and God glorified. These will be the heartbeat of an imitator of God.
Walk as Children of Light
Ephesians 5:6-14 – Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. Don’t participate in the things these people do. For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.
Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”
Our focus passage here in Ephesians 5 points out that as we learn to be imitators of God, it’s important we understand something else about our new identity. It’s been a theme throughout the book of Ephesians; we are not who we used to be. This time, that means we’re no longer left groping around in the darkness. We have been brought into the light of Jesus Christ!
It says He has put His light within us, and this light produces ONLY what it good and right and true.
Surely we know that’s not who we used to be. Maybe we even can see we’re still not living like that’s who we are. But it IS the identity we’ve been given. We are children of the light, and we have been called to walk in that light!
1 Thessalonians 5:5-8 For you are children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to the darkness and night. So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded. Night is the time when people sleep and drinkers get drunk. But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.
How do we walk as children of light? According to the Bible, by using our armor (which we’ll talk more about when we get to chapter 6) of faith and love, and wearing the confidence of our salvation as a helmet that protects our minds.
When the security of our identity as those saved by the grace of God permeates our being, doubts are put to death, and we can find the courage to step out into the light of our Savior and live there.
Living in the Light
Jesus IS our light. When we talk about living in the light, or walking as children of light, we mean that we are living plugged into Him.
1 John 1:5-7 – This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in Him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.
Here’s the thing about living in the light; darkness cannot exist in the presence of light. Whatever evil exists in and around us, living in the light is going to expose. As we grow in our identity as imitators of God, we’ll learn to come towards that light because exposing what is not good and true and right will no longer terrify us. Our desire for purity will overcome our shame and our fear. Just like Jesus, we’ll no longer have any tolerance for darkness. Instead, like our Savior, we will be a light in that darkness, shining out for all to see!
Be a Light in the Darkness
Matthew 5:14-16 – You are the light of the world – like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your Heavenly Father.
Friends, God did not save us only to put us under a basket. He lit up our darkness with His perfect light, exposed the things we needed to surrender to Him, and canceled our eternal debt making us pure and bright because He wants us to in turn give light to everyone in the house!
The Bible tells us He is not willing that any should perish, (2 Peter 3:9) but that all should come to repentance. Our Lord longs to see every man, woman, boy, and girl surrender to His perfect light. He has placed us, like a city on a hilltop, as ambassadors for Him.
As we live in the open, walking as children of light, people will notice. They’ll see the difference in us. Our light will be impossible to hide, and it will expose the darkness in them, giving them the choice to come into the light, as we have, or to reject it. The result is not our responsibility. We must simply become imitators of God, blazing like the Son as we are living in the Light of His love!
*How about you? What are you doing to become an imitator of God? How are you living in the light? Tell us about your victories in the comments below.
If you enjoyed this post, check out the rest of the Identified Series as we work our way through the whole book of Ephesians to discover everything God has to teach us about who we are in Him.