Title: Rules for Grateful Living – Part 2 (Eph 5: 1 – 21)
By: Bert Amsing (1991)
Long weekends are interesting things. It used to be that we would have two or three long weekends a year. Now, of course, you have your basic feast days like Christmas and Easter and if they fell close enough to a weekend you could pretty well count on getting a long weekend out of it. And of course, you always had Canada Day and Labor Day weekend. But now it seems that every single month has to have. Of course, nobody is arguing but it does make you wonder how you’re supposed to keep track of what you’re supposed to be celebrating.
Nowadays we celebrate everything. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Secretary’s Day, Grandparent’s Day, Boss’s Day, Veteran’s Day, Mother-in-Law’s Day, Sweetest’s Day (which is not Valentine’s Day), and finally Friendship Day which is what we are celebrating today.
And I suppose it’s worth celebrating. Where would we be without our friends? VBS (Vacation Bible School) had as its theme “a friend loves at all times.” Jesus Christ calls us his friends. A friend lays down his life for another. We are fast becoming good friends in this church, as it should be. For some of us, friendships come easy. For others, it is more difficult. Some have many friends. Some have a few close friends. We need friends in life and the scriptures have much to say about how to make Christian friendships meaningful. Any relationship we have with people, whether it be our children, closest, parents, or friends, gives us great joy as well as a great responsibility.
When someone is important to you, their views and opinions, actions and attitudes have a tremendous impact on us. If we love one another as friends, we look out for one another and try to benefit each other. If we come across a good deal on something, we let them know. When there is a special occasion, they are invited. A good friend is worth his or her weight in gold.
Our scripture reading today gives us some good guidelines on how to be a good Christian friend. How to be a part of this fellowship of friends. We said last week that godly living is a must for effective parenting. It is also a must for effective friendships.
This whole section of the book of Ephesians really belongs together from Chapter 4:17 – 5:21. We have broken it up into two parts. Chapter 5:1 is the pivotal verse that makes sense of this whole section. More than anything else Paul wants us to be “imitators of God.”
William Hendrikson says, “Now to people who are living in an age which proudly proclaims, “We have conquered space,” and which drags God down the level of a Santa Claus, it may not seem at all outrageous to strive to imitate God. But if by the grace of the Living God, the words “Be still and know that I am God,” have retained some meaning for us, this crisp command to imitate him may baffle us.
We stand in awe before his majesty. With Isaiah we see the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and we hear the voices of the flying seraphim, as they cover their faces and their feet, and are crying continually “Holy, Holy, Holy is Jehovah of hosts, the fullness of the earth Is His glory.” And we too, answer, “Woe is me for I am undone because I am a man of unclean lips. For my eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of hosts.”
Rather than even faintly to imagine that we, creatures of the dust, would ever be able to imitate God, we feel like falling down upon our knees and saying, with Simon Peter, “depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
And that’s good.
There are far too many who presume upon this godly lifestyle, many who treat it as only a good idea which is probably good for us. One option among many lifestyles. An option that we can choose to follow in addition to following the world. While we are dedicated to living life as fully as possible with all of our toys and entertainment and worldly attitudes, we also like to dip our fingers into the smorgasbord of godly living once in awhile, usually on Sundays, to take and enjoy a tasty morsel.
Would to God that all of us would feel profoundly the utter absurdity of trying to imitate God. May we realize the insult we Heap upon him when we only dip our fingers for a taste of the godly life. Rather may we all, like John, when he saw the Lord in his vision in Revelations “fall at his feet as one dead.”
Because it is only in that Spirit of awe and humble reverence that we should even think of the godly life. Only when we desire that godly life with every fiber of our beings and yet know it is beyond us, can we begin to know what it means to imitate God.
It is only then that the Lord will lay his right hand upon us and say, “fear not.” Obedience to his command to imitate him is possible only if he will help us. After all, we are made In His image. We have been made new creations because of Christ and the Holy Spirit now dwells within us. Therefore, all things are possible, even imitating God, for those who believe.
We are God’s children, his imitators.
Of course, we can’t imitate God by creating a universe and caring for it day by day, or by devising a method of saving mankind from himself, or by raising the dead, or by creating a new heaven and earth.
But in our own human way we can and must imitate him. We were created in His image, that is, we have the stamp of his personality and character on us. We can, by the power of the Spirit, develop a godly character that expresses itself in a godly lifestyle. We can be holy!
We are his children and children are great imitators.
Especially a child who is “dearly loved.” They want to be just like their daddy. Love makes us eager to please. And love is what pleases God. Jesus Christ was eager to please God. Love characterized his life. Not the kind of weak-kneed romantic love that we hear so much of in modern-day music but a tough love that went to the cross for the sake of his enemies. He was a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. He gave himself up. It was voluntary and it was hard, that’s what makes it a sacrifice.
Here in this fellowship of friends, we have people who give of themselves and their time and resources for the benefit of us all. It is voluntary and sometimes even hard. It is a sacrifice after all. But they don’t do it reluctantly. They want to please their friend Jesus Christ and they want to encourage and support their friends in this Fellowship. They are like little children imitating their father in Heaven.
And then once again Paul gets into some details of what godly living or imitating God looks like. Last week we talked about speaking the truth, dealing with anger, and stealing.
In this passage, Paul talks about idolatry. Oh, not the old kind of idolatry with little idols in a small corner of your house that you worship. This is the idolatry of sexual immorality, all kinds of impurity, and greed. “For of this, you can be sure,” says Paul, “no immoral, impure, or greedy person – such a man is an idolater – has any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God.”
How so? How can these things be idolatrous?
Simply because they are things that demand the deepest allegiances of the soul. One does not just fall into immorality or impurity or greed. If it happens only once, you repent and confess and are forgiven for the sake of Christ and one continues his godly lifestyle. Paul is here talking about immoral, impure, greedy persons and lifestyles. These are the things that mark this person’s character. When people think of this person, immorality, impurity or greed are the things that first come to mind.
Well, most of us are safe then, or are we?
Maybe our lifestyles don’t reflect immorality, impurity, or greed, but we sure like watching those who do. Soap operas are a favorite for many of us. Very little on TV doesn’t glorify immorality, impurity, and greed. Dallas was a favorite for a long time. Twin Peaks last season was the favorite. What movies, other than Walt Disney perhaps, do we watch where we are taught that immorality isn’t bad if you are in love, impurity is culturally relative, and greed is expected. You can hardly watch a decent show anymore and yet we watch anyway.
Paul says that among us there must not be even a hint of these things. It is shameful to even mention what the disobedient do in secret, and they don’t even do it in secret anymore, you can bring it right into your living room and call it entertainment.
The things we call entertainment are the reason why God’s wrath is coming upon the world. We are the children of light and yet we love to watch and participate from a distance in the deeds of darkness. Rather than exposing the darkness, we are entertained by it. We are being deceived by the empty words of the world which tell us not to get so uptight, it’s not that bad, we all need to unwind, we would never do what we are watching.
Have you ever heard of the vicarious nature of TV and books?
We talk about the vicarious atonement of Christ which means that Christ died and was raised on our behalf. We participate in his death and resurrection even though we weren’t physically there. God created humans with the ability to participate vicariously in experiences they’ve never had. A good book plugs into that ability to transport us to Treasure Island and experience a pirate’s life. Imagination but more than imagination.
With the advent of TV, we no longer need the help, as much, of our imagination. We can beam up to the bridge of the Enterprise and speak to the captain. Do you ever notice how often the people on the show are looking and speaking directly into the camera? They are speaking to you and then the captain responds. Producers are geniuses at drawing the audience into the show, that’s what makes a show successful. We do participate as if we were there vicariously.
But among you there must not be even a hint of immorality, impurity, agreed. Will we live wisely or foolishly? Obscenity, foolish talk, and coarse joking are out of place. Rather let Thanksgiving be the hallmark of your life.
Getting drunk is not wise.
Get high on the spirit, sing, play music, give thanks and let that be your holy entertainment. That kind of entertainment is healthy for friendships to grow. On Friendship Day, it would be wise to dedicate ourselves anew to godly living in these areas of life as well.
And you will become the children of light.