Be Imitators of God and Walk in Love
May 12, 2019
I want to be a godly man. I want to be a godly woman. These are beautiful words. And the believer in Christ who utters these words from his or her heart longs for what is arguably the greatest goal of all: being godly.
Those who repent of their sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ lift up their eyes toward heaven and smile. They smile because they know how much God loves them. And in their prayers, they say, “God, I want to love others as you have loved me.” In their hearts, they say, “God, I want to be holy, because you are holy. I want to be forgiving, because you are forgiving. God, you have been kind and compassionate toward me, and I want to do the same. God, you love me, and I want to love everyone around me.” This is what it means to be godly.
And this is the center of Christian life. We’ve gone through Ephesians for some time now. I hope you realize that the vast majority of Jesus’ commands are far less concerned with what we are supposed to do and far more concerned with who we are supposed to be. Your life is not about your achievements or your impact. Your life is about your character and your godliness.
If we want to be godly, if we want to grow in godliness this morning, then let us consider our God. Let us consider the fatherly love of God the Father (verse 1). Let us consider the sacrificial love of God the Son (verse 2). And may we love others as God loves us.
Brothers and sisters, remember this: God is your heavenly Father. He protects you and provides for you. He has given you ultimate safety. He has met your most important need. Your heavenly Father has spoken to you. I dare say, your heavenly Father is proud of you. Your heavenly Father loves you.
And remember this, brothers and sisters: You are his beloved children. You are precious to him. You have been adopted by him. You are family to him. Your heavenly Father knows everything about you - even the number of hairs on your head. I dare say, your heavenly Father enjoys watching you grow up right before his eyes. Your heavenly Father loves you.
And you are beloved because the Son is beloved. When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, God the Father said this our Lord and Savior: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” And Paul wrote these words in Ephesians 1: “In love [God the Father] predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” We are united with Christ and one with him. Beloved are God’s children, because beloved is God’s Son.
Therefore, dear beloved, may you imitate God. Just as a child sees his or her father and wants to grow up and be like him, may you see your Father in heaven and want to grow up and be like him. People say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But the imitation of God is the sincerest form of worship and obedience and love to God. Our heavenly Father is the best. And we want to be like him.
So be like him. Be holy. Be kind. Be gracious and forgiving. Be patient and loving. Look at what he has done in history. Listen to the words that he has spoken. Learn his heart. Do all of this by reading the Bible. And slowly but surely, your imitation of him will get better and better. You will be more holy. You will be more kind. You will be more gracious and forgiving and patient and loving. You will grow in godliness.
We have considered the fatherly love of God the Father (verse 1). Now let us consider the sacrificial love of God the Son (verse 2). And may we love others as God loves us.
Dear beloved, remember this: Jesus gave himself up for you. He emptied himself and took the form of a servant (Philippians 2:7). He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death (Philippians 2:8). He laid down his life for you (John 10:18). None of this was forced. Jesus gave himself up for you because he wanted to. It was his own will to deny himself and give himself up for the cross and die for your sins. Jesus did not merely give you his time, his wisdom or his help. Jesus gave you himself. All of himself. His body and his blood. His righteousness and his obedience. His suffering and his humiliation. His heart and his mind. Jesus gave himself up for you. Jesus loves you. He loves you with a self-giving love and a self-denying love.
And remember this, dear beloved: Jesus was a fragrant offering and sacrifice for you. He was a payment for your sins. He was a substitution so that all the justice and wrath and punishment for your sins would fall on him instead of on you. As an offering and sacrifice for you, Jesus died. And his death was a fragrant death. To God the Father, Jesus’ death was fragrant. It was fragrant because it was acceptable and satisfactory and pleasing to the Father. The Father’s justice was served. The Father’s holiness was championed. And Jesus’s death is fragrant to us as well. It is fragrant to us because it means that there is no more condemnation for us. It means that we are forgiven and reconciled to God. It means that we are saved. Jesus loves you. He loves you with a sacrificial love and a deathly, death-dealing love.
Therefore, dear beloved, may you walk in love. Just as Jesus’ love for you meant sacrifice and death for him, may your love for others mean sacrifice and death for you. This is true love. Did you think love is nice and easy? It is not nice. And it is not easy. Because when you truly love someone, you empty yourself. You deny yourself. You give yourself up. You give all of yourself up. When you truly love someone, you pay. You substitute your wants and your comforts and your interests and replace them with his or her wants and comforts and interests. When you truly love someone, you die.
So if you struggle to love others, know that the struggle is expected. But it’s a good struggle. Welcome to a life of death. I am serious. Listen to how Paul puts it in Philippians 3:8-11. And wait for the punchline at the end.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith - that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Becoming like Jesus in his death. This is the true Christian life. Our lives are patterned after the death of Christ. Being like Jesus involves a conformity to his suffering and his death. This is what it means when God’s Word tells us that we are to share in Christ’s sufferings (Philippians 3:10; 1 Peter 4:12-13; Romans 8:17). This is what Jesus meant when he said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Dear beloved, this is what love really is.
So love others and prepare to die. Love your spouse and be a living sacrifice. Love your family members and friends and deny yourself. Love your church members and give yourself up. Love your enemies and pay the price. Love and die. Die and love. That’s what Jesus did for you. Now it is your turn to do the same for others.
None of this may sound very pleasant to you. But when you love like this, when you imitate God the Father, and when you walk in love as Christ loved us, there is a good fragrance. Think of things that smell so good to you. Think of perhaps a delicious steak on a grill. Or a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Or fresh bed sheets. Or a nice perfume. Or a clean and happy baby.
In one sense, God does not have a nose. But in another sense, God does. God smell things. And do you know what smells so good to him? Love. Godly love. Fatherly love. Self-giving love and self-denying love. Sacrificial love and deathly, death-dealing love. This kind of love - his kind of love - is fragrant to him. It is an aroma that truly pleases him. I want to be a godly and loving man. I want to be a godly and loving woman. These are beautiful and fragrant words.
What do you smell like? What does Highland smell like? I hope you smell like God the Father. I hope you smell like Christ the Son.