walking in true love


Have you ever seen a blueprint? In college, I worked in the corporate office of a West Virginia coal mine. Part of my job was delivering blueprints from the engineers to the contractors. A skilled engineer draws a blueprint or builds a prototype, which shows in great detail what the design is to look like. In order for the building to look like it is intended the builders must follow the pattern laid out in the blueprint.

The prototype of walking in love is Jesus Christ [Ephesians 5:1-2]

When it comes to walking with God, Jesus is the blueprint and prototype for how you are to walk. Ephesians 5:1-2 says, “be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” A faithful follower of Christ will imitate Christ, like a carbon copy of the original blueprint.[1]

The illustration given for imitating God is a child. Paul commands followers to “be imitators of God, as beloved children.” What can we learn from children about imitating? Children are natural imitators. Children mimic their parent’s words [what they hear] and actions [what they see]. God knows you are wired to imitate from the womb. Therefore, as a child adopted into the family of God imitate your Father [cf. 1:5; Romans 5:5].

The goal of imitating God is Christlike love, “walk in love as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us.” What is your definition of God’s love? What do you learn about love from the example of Christ? Christ’s love—true love—is built on sacrifice.[2] He loves sinful people because He has a perfect, sacrificial, and unconditional love [cf. 4:32]. He became the substitute sacrifice for your sins, which is the ultimate demonstration of love. He did not do this because you deserved it; rather sin deserves is death. He loves sacrificially and freely because that is who He is.

It is impossible to imitate God in everything, but you can imitate God by walking in Christlike love. Continual conformity to Christ is the journey of a Christ follower and love is your chief mark of Christlikeness. Christlike love motivates you to live holy, which means your thinking, attitude and behavior is characterized by Christlikeness [cf. Galatians 2:20].[3]

Paul will now contrast walking in the love of Christ with walking in the way of the world [vs.3-4]. We live in a world so willing to share their love with things that do not satisfy. What do people love other than God?

The antitype of walking in love is sexual immorality [Ephesians 5:3-4]

How is walking sexual sin the opposite of walking in Christlike love? Sexual sin loves secret self-indulgence, while Christlike love is openly self-sacrificing. Sexual sin seeks to share the altar with God, but in most cases it dethrones Him from His high place. In the Ephesians 5:3-4, Paul shares how love of sexual sin takes many forms.

3 forms of physical immorality [v.3] Biblical Definition Biblical Replacement
Fornication, 

Sexual Immorality

Any kind of sexually related sin [pornea]—pornography, masturbation, adultery, etc. [1 Corinthians 6:18; Jude 7; 1 Thessalonians 4:3]. Wait for sex until marriage [1 Corinthians 6:12-20; 7:2]; run from any sexual immorality [1 Corinthians 6:18]
Uncleanness, Impurity Moral impurity; sexual thinking; lust [Leviticus 11-12; Matthew 23:25-26; Hebrews 1:3; James 1:27; 4:8]. Purity of Heart; holiness [1 Thessalonians 4:3-8]
Covetousness Greed; inward desire to acquire what you cannot have [Luke 12:15; Matthew 6:24; 2 Peter 2:3; Colossians 3:5] Contentment [Philippians 4:12-13]; do not covet another man’s wife [Exodus 20]

All forms of physical immorality are a serious cancer to your soul. So serious they “must not even be named” among God’s people [cf. 5:12].[4] It is not that you should not talk about these sins, but you must be careful to not create an atmosphere that tolerates these sins. You cannot avoid living in a world where these sorts of sins are become less shameful and less secretive. Although they are common that does not give you an excuse to indulge. Sexual immorality is not only in a physical form, but it also can be in a verbal form:

3 forms of verbal immorality [v.4] Biblical Definition Biblical Replacement
Filthy language, obscenity Sexually degrading; obscene talk; shameless; disgraceful; dirty talk Build up and encourage one another to follow Christ [4:29; Colossians 3:5-17]. Put on thankfulness. “What comes out of your mouth or what you laugh at reveals your heart” [Matthew 15:18].
Foolish talk Stupid words; silliness; childish; moronic
Crude joking, 

course joking

Verbal immorality; vulgar; perverse; buffoonery; sexual innuendo

Verbal immorality is not just for dirty old men. Turn on your TV or listening to the Billboard Top 25 songs and you will see that dirty sexy talk sells. Dirty language is common and cheap, but it must not be the talk of followers of Christ. Sure Jesus hung out with dirty rotten sins, but He never stooped to their potty mouth language or laughed at their dirty jokes.

The remedy for immorality is thanksgiving.  How can thankfulness help remedy immorality? While immorality is self-centeredness [cf. Romans 1:21], thanksgiving is Christ-centeredness. Thanksgiving is rooted in a radically different heart, which understands it is does not deserve God’s grace. Thanksgiving—being content in Christlikeness—is the antidote for all immorality. What happens if a person continues to walk in sexual immorality?

The consequence of walking in sexual immorality is hell [Ephesians 5:5]

A person who walks in sexual immorality often describes it as living hell. Sexual sin is like working under the whip of a ruthless slave master. Walking in immorality not only feels like hell, but also it will pave your road to hell, “Everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” [v.5]

Drinking from the well of sexual sin never satisfies. The hurt and hopelessness left in the wake of sexual sin can be horrendous and handicapping. Sexual sin is like poison ivy with an all-consuming itch. The more you scratch the infected area the more you itch and the more it spreads. Sexual sin will poison you to death.

The consequences of continuing a life of immorality are serious and sobering, now [in this life] and later [in eternity]. First, those who are steeped in these sins are habitually involved as a pattern of life [cf. Hebrews 12:14]. A follower of Christ cannot walk this way for long without the Holy Spirit bringing about conviction sin and change of life. Second, immorality, impurity and greed are summed up as “Idolatry”.

How is immorality the same as worshipping a false god? Idolatry is when you love something more than God. An idol is more than a carved image; it is a God-substitute. Are you grasping onto an immoral idol? The Bible is clear—idols must be demolished.

Follower of Christ, you are called to be alive to Christ and actively loving Him. Know everyday is a battle for the mind. Your battle is between active love for the world and passive love God will come to a head—choose whom you will love. If you love the world more than Christ you have allowed the world to rob, rape and exploit your love. Think of loving the world like sleeping with the enemy. Immorality is always risky; therefore, pursue purity because it is always safe. A.W. Tozer said,

“Men think of the world not as a battleground but as a playground. We are not here to fight, we are here to frolic. We are not in a foreign land, we are at home. We are not getting ready to live, we are already living, and the best we can do is rid ourselves of our inhibitions and our frustrations and live this life to the full.”

How can I fight the temptations of sexual immorality? First, draw a line in the sand. Commit to God, “I will never put myself in situation where I will be tempted to fall into sin.” Second, put off old sinful ways and put on walking in Christlikeness. Make this your biblical battle plan. Third, maintain accountability. Keep clear guardrails and safety nets that together help you avoid your temptations. Fourth, consider the cost of your commitment to Christ. Reputation takes a lifetime to build, but a moment to destroy.


[1] Imitation is a theme in Paul’s letters: 1 Corinthians 4:16; 10:31-11:1; Philippians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9.

[2] cf. Leviticus 1:17; Isaiah 53:10; 2 Corinthians 2:15-16; Philippians 4:18.

[3] A thread about living a life of love appears a lot in Ephesians: 4:2; 15-16; 5:2. 25, 28, 33; 6:24

[4] Saints = believers, holy ones.

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