walking like Christ

“Therefore 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.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)

The game Simon Says is a game we play as children. But it is a game that we are never too old to play. The idea of following a leader is ingrained in our core being. We are hardwired to imitate from the womb.

Paul said, “Be imitators of God, as beloved children.” (Ephesians 5:1) What can we learn about imitating from children? Children are natural born imitators. They are masters at mimicking their parent’s. Often children imitate quickly, enthusiastically, and without embarrassment. God loves children, especially His children. Therefore, Paul is challenging adult followers, as a child adopted into the family of God, imitate your Father.

Let’s look at what God says to imitate and copy. This text is especially important for ministry partners, church members, and doing life with other Christians. Read Ephesians 5:1-2. Within these two verses I have three questions and two application:

Q1: What about God are we called to imitate?

We are called to “walk in love” (cf. 3:17-19). That’s our goal. What does it look like to walk in love? “When He had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek Me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples (you smell like Christ), if you have love for one another.” (John 13:31-35)

Q2: Who is my model for walking in love?

Jesus. Ephesians 5:2 is God’s list of values. #1 on God’s list of personal values is Jesus. He values Himself. Since He values Himself, He desires His children to walk like Him. The goal of imitating God is Christlike love, “walk in love as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us.”

Q3: How is the example of Christ a good enough motivation to walk in love?

I asked this question to a group of children this week. Without hesitation a six-year old Eden raised her hand and said with a sweet smile, “God’s love.” In the simple words of a child she was so on target. God’s love is enough. The love God gives His children is demonstrated in the sacrificial love of His Son. Christ’s love—true love—is built on sacrifice.1 He loves sinful people because He has a perfect, sacrificial, and unconditional love [cf. 4:32]. You and I have received that love as beloved children. Being receivers of His love is motivation enough to continue living in His love, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) Bind on your heart this truth: God is my Father and I am His child.

Since it is clear that God values His Son and desires His community of followers to walk like His Son, I have two applications for us as ministry partners:

1. Remember, the way we walk models the gospel.

How we deal with our difference speaks loudly (cf. Ephesians 4:25-32; 5:3-5). Sooner or later what you think about someone in your heart will come out of your mouth. It might be a small jab, behind the back slander, the silent treatment, or an outburst of rage, Usually it starts with a small personality or preferential issue that builds over time until it becomes big and ugly and out of control. Deal with it before before the rash spreads.

4 years I got the the worst case of poison ivy. The problem was, I did not know what it was at first. I thought it was a small bug bite. Within 48-hours a rash covered my body and I was a miserable itchy pussy mess. It was so bad that I wore pajama pants to work for 2-weeks. If I only caught it early, it would not have been bad at all. So it is with differences between ministry partners: deal with it quickly and biblical.

Last year Sarah and I were talking to long time missionaries to Brazil. They openly shared about a season of conflict on their team. They were part of a multicultural team and misunderstanding between one another were common. At one point the differences were so great they considered leaving the team, but were torn because they loved the people to whom they were ministering and did not want to abandon the work. Sadly, their differences were also known by the people. The testimony of the gospel was tarnished by the missionaries conflict.

The team decided rather than splitting ways to deal with the heart of the issue. They gathered together for a meeting. Outside the locals had also gathered around to see what would happen expecting tempers to flare and machetes to fly. The meeting began with prayer, then they read Scripture, confessed their sin to one another, had communion, and in tears embraced one another. The community watched dumbfounded.

Fast forward 20 years. The missionaries stayed the course and a church is planted. The church has hundreds of members and strong leadership. Time comes the new church an issue between its own leaders. A certain sect of the church is committed to leave the church. Tempers are flared and machetes are ready to fly. Until one leader stepped in and said, “Do you remember that evening 20-years ago, when we gathered around the missionaries meeting and we saw the pray, read Scripture, have communion, weep and reconcile?” So God desires to use our differences for unity and the glory of the gospel.

2. Let us encourage one another to value Christ supremely more than anything.

He is the treasure of our church. He is the One we adore. He is our goal for missions. It is His fame we desire to spread. Together let us make Him great. Even greater than ourselves and the things we value that are lesser than Him. He is supreme. He is the value we hold high.

how much does Jesus love the church?

hands

Enough to pay an unimaginable price to bring her into complete alignment with himself. His hands tell the story. They are wonderful hands. Hands that fashion the Universe. “All things were created through him and for him.” Hands that took on flesh and became tiny baby hands. Hands that became tough as he practiced a carpenter’s trade. Hands that healed lepers and gave sight to the blind. Hands that popped open the ears of the deaf and blessed little children. Perfect hands whose movements were always innocent and sinless. Hands that were nailed to a cross with nine-inch iron spikes. Bloody hands that ceased moving so that ours could move forever. That’s how much he loves the church. His hands bear the scars at this very moment as he sits at the right hand of the Majesty on High, pleading our case and praying for us and waiting eagerly for the big day. The day he takes our hand in his and makes us his Bride forever.

air

In the beginning through Jesus, God spoke air into existence. Then he formed man out of the dust of the dust and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. But Jesus did not count his equality with God a thing to be grasped; he emptied himself and took on flesh and lungs and need for air to stay alive. The breathed out so many wonderful words. Words that thousands of years later still bring hope and meanings. One day he arched his back and breathed his last, screaming at the top of his lungs, “It is finished.” He suffocated to death so that we could live and breath forever. That’s how much he loves his Bride. When the awestruck centurion saw the way Jesus took his last breath he whispered, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” He was right. On the morning of the third day Jesus came out of the tomb, breathing. And later that night he breathed on his fallen-star, blockhead disciples and they received the Holy Spirit. The world has never been the same, because at that moment the church was born.

So when you walk out of your church feeling indignant, and justified at being disappointed or critical, remember–you, too, are a fallen star and a blockhead, just like every other person in that place. When you feel like keeping Jesus but quitting the church, remember who she is–the precious Bride of Christ. Can you really love him without loving her? Isn’t being a member of her the world’s highest privilege? Don’t miss out on the privilege just because she’s still imperfect.

Red Like Blood. Joe Coffey and Bob Bevington. Shepherds Press, Wapwallopen, PA. 2011. 189-190.

extreme makeover: marriage edition

Most people have seen the show Extreme Makeover. On the reality show a family in desperate need of home renovation is surprised with the opportunity it receive the needed renovations. The show usually destroys the old home and rebuilds a new one. We love the show because in the end the family has a wonderful new home.

When it comes to our real homes—marriage. There are times when an extreme makeover is needed. For whatever reason the home has become rundown over time, bad habits, or weak foundation, and you do not have the resources or know-how to fix it. Building a solid marriage can be difficult. It takes hard work to build or renovate a marriage into God’s kind of marriage. The Church in Ephesians is compared to a: body [1:22, 23], building [2:20-22], and now a bride [5:31-32]. Let’s begin by looking at the foundations of a solid marriage through the roles of each partner within the marriage relationship.

The Role of the Wife [Ephesians 5:22-24]

The primary role of the wife is submission [v.22]. Submission sounds like a dirty word. Submission is a willingness to lovingly, joyfully, and freely follow authority. Submission is not an option, but a command to lovingly, joyfully and freely follow her husband as she would follow Christ.

Is submission for wives only? No. Submission is a concept for all believers [5:21]. Everyone is summoned to submit to some kind of authority. You submit to your spouses [Ephesians 5:22], parents [6:1-4], government [Romans 13:1], church [Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 5:5], and ultimately God. Submission is a spiritual matter because all submission is obedience to God’s authority. Jesus says, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” [John 14:15]

Why is submission a difficult command for people to obey? It is an authority issue. Your natural reaction is buck against any authority that tells you how to live. It started when Satan rebelled against God’s authority and continued in the hearts of men from the Garden of Eden until now [Romans 3:10-18]. A lack of submission originates from a desire to be king of your domain rather than letting God be King of His domain.

Headship is the motivation for submission [v.23a]. In Ephesians, headship refers to Christ [1:22; 4:15], but here it is being implied on the husband. Headship has the biblical idea of ruler or leader. Without the headship of Christ over the church the building would not have a cornerstone, and without a cornerstone would crumble. Have you heard it said, “There are too many chiefs and no Indians?” This is a common phrase to say that there are too many people demanding control, but too few willing to follow another persons lead. In Genesis 3:16, woman is cursed with the desire to rule over their husbands [cf. 4:7]. Two chiefs in a marriage can become a two-headed monster. It is a monster that needs to be slain. The church submits to Christ because she knows the benefits of being united with Him. Likewise the wife submits to the headship of her husband.

Submission to authority, especially within marriage, sometimes becomes abused. Submission does not mean the wife becomes a slave or inferior to the husband [Proverbs 31:10-31]. The Bible never commands a husband to force his wife to submit; rather the wife is commanded to make herself submissive as her husband’s helper [cf. 1 Peter 3:1; Genesis 2:18]. Since Christ is the example of headship, the husband is to be as loving and life-giving in their marriage relationship as Christ is over the church. God created men and women equally within the image of God [Genesis 1:26-27; 2:23; Galatians 3:28], but He has given them distinct roles to fulfill that are for their good and God’s glory.

Christ is the model for submission [v.23b-24]. How can a wife submit to her husband? Simply by following the example of the church’s submission to Christ: speak the truth in love [cf. 4:15; 4:25; Proverbs 9:3], point him to Christ with your actions [1 Peter 3:1-6], extend the forgiveness of Christ when he sins, and affirm his leadership.

The Role of the Husband [Ephesians 5:25-30]

The husband’s primary role is a commitment to love his wife like Christ loves His church [v.25; cf. Genesis 2:19-20; 3:20]. He is to be a lover, leader [Matthew 20] and learner [1 Peter 3:7]. He loves her enough to lead her to walk with God as He models it himself for her. As the husband seeks to humbly serve God, it is reflected in the way he loves, leads, and learns to his wife.

Why is it important for a husband to follow the example of Christ? Christ was a servant leader [Matthew 20]. He came not to be served, but to serve. He was a king that gave Himself sacrificially for His Bride. It is not that the church deserves to be given His love, but His love is an expression of His grace. He did not give 50/50 waiting for the church to love Him back. He gave it all, 100%. Husbands do not hold back from loving sacrificially to your wife.

The Bible gives many words for love: The first word is erao, which is a physical or sexual love. Erao is where you get the word erotic. It is a pleasurable love to be saved for the marriage bed only. The second word is phileo, which is an emotional love. This is the love you share with a brother or close friend. Phileo will see objects as worthy of love. Peter used this word of Jesus [John 21:20ff]. The third word for love in the Bible is agapao, which is an intellectual and volitional love. Agapao is a committed, God-like love. Jesus used this word of Peter and God uses it toward sinful mankind [John 3:16].

In relationships, these words for love have a proper order. If you start with sexual love it will be almost impossible to have true committed love because the relationship is built on physicality rather than friendship and commitment. If you begin with committed and brotherly love, it will create the best atmosphere for sexual love and additional loves grow. A husband’s Christlike love has a sanctifying effect on marriage [vs.26-27].

Why is important for a husband to view his wife’s body as part of his own? [vs.28-30] No man treats his own body in an unloving way, therefore a husband who views his wife’s body as his own will treat his wife lovingly as well. A loving husband will protect and provide for his wife as his most prized possession. A husband protects and provides for his wife is with his time, careful ear, encouragement, and appreciation for her inner and outer beauty.

Reviewing the Biblical Basis for Marriage [Ephesians 5:31-33]

Marriage is a picture of oneness [v.31]. Oneness is the miracle of marriage—when two people become one flesh [cf. Genesis 2:24]. Oneness in marriage means your spouse becomes priority above my career, friends, sinful habits, and hobby’s.

Marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church [v.32]. What does Paul mean by mystery? [cf.3:9] The symbol of marriage was hidden, but is now revealed. Why is marriage a mystery? Marriage is a picture of salvation through Christ’s sacrificial relationship with the church, which is made up of both Jew and Gentile. Marriage is a typology of marriage that shows the unity of Christ [Bridegroom] with His church [Bride]. This gives marriage a divine significance.

Marriage glorifies God when the husband and wife are fulfilling their roles [v.33]. The purpose of marriage is not my happiness, fulfillment, or love, although these can be fruits of a godly marriage. Marriage is bigger than just my spouse and me, but it is about a display of Christ-like love and obedience to the world.

walking in wisdom

A few years ago my father picked up a new hobby—making walking sticks. Since starting Trail Tamer he has sold hundreds of sticks. Many of his sticks are a work of art in which he carves beautiful images and meaningful phrases. I own three sticks. Upon each of my sticks my father engraved verses from all over the Bible that talk about walking.

Ephesians talks a lot about walking: walking in new life [4:17-18], walking in forgiveness [4:32], walking in true love [5:2], walking in the light [5:8], and walking in wisdom [5:15]. Walking according to Paul is not about physical exercise, but about the spiritual life’s journey with Christ. Walking flexes your spiritual joints to become fit for the difficult road ahead. As you walk with Christ you become more and more like Him [cf. 4:1].

In Ephesians 5:15-21, the theme of walking continues with an encouragement to walk in wisdom. Walking in wisdom is more than knowledge of random facts about life or God. It is not about being able to win at spiritual Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit. Wisdom is learning to live in a way that pleases God by putting on the character of Christ from inside out.

What does it mean to walk in wisdom? [Ephesians 5:15-17]

First, wisdom looks carefully at how you walk [v.15]. A wise person does not ask, “How far can I go before I sin?” Instead they ask, “Is this helpful for me and my walk with God?” I have freedom to do as I please, but that does not mean it is profitable for me. Paul elsewhere encourages the Corinthian church, which struggled with relationships and unwise habits, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable.” [1 Corinthians 6:12]

A wise person watches they way they walk because they are saved to new life. An unwise person is not careful how they walk, therefore, they are easily influenced by poor entertainment choices [i.e. TV, movies, games, internet], by addictive consumption [i.e. alcohol, media], and by corruptive people they mingling around. Although these things are not sinful in themselves they are things that can easily lead to sin.

Second, wisdom makes the best use of your time [v.16]. A wise person is disciplined and discerning with their time. As followers of Christ you are aware that time is limited and every opportunity matters because “you are buying time.” 

People waste a lot of time on things that do not matter. When you stand before God one day will your labor in Farmville matter? Will racing your kids to sports practices and club activities matter? Will your endless hours of texting and gossiping about silliness matter? Time is but a vapor; it is here one moment, and the next “poof” it is gone. Everything you do everyday has eternal significance. Unwise people do not consider their time as God’s time.  Wise people are a steward of the life God has given you. Do not be a slave to time; let time be a slave to you. Glorify God with the time you have remaining because that is what matters.

You can commit to making a wise use of your time at any age. Before the age of 20, Jonathan Edwards committed about 70 resolutions to God. It was his desire from a young age to walk with God. One of these resolutions was, “Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.” You are never too busy, too young or too old not to give your time to God. Imagine if God said that to you?

Third, wisdom understands what the will of God is [v.17]. Only a fool does not think about God. A fool thinks, “How much can I get away with?” This is kindergarten Christianity. A wise follower of Christ moves beyond elementary foolishness and considers God’s purposes and plans, and seeks to follow after Him in them.

What is the will of God? I often have people ask me, “Pastor, what is the will of God?” Most are shocked that as you unpack a biblical view of God’s will it is much simpler and wide-ranging than you may realize. God’s will is less about whom you will marry, what job you will have, what your future will be like, and more about the kind of person you are to become. “This is the will of God, your sanctification.” [1 Thessalonians 4:3] In other words, it is God’s will that you are growing up to be more like Christ. It really is that simple. Therefore, it is easy to know if you are out of God’s will—if you are not living like Christ.

How am I supposed to walk in wisdom? [Ephesians 5:18-21]

If you are walking in wisdom you are filled with the Spirit [vs.18]. Paul contrasts be filled with the Spirit to being drunk. Why would Paul use drunkenness in contrast with being filled with the Spirit? Paul knows that alcohol is a common substance that can control you if you have too much to drink. It is all a matter of what you allow to control you.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not the same thing as: being saved, being more saved, or having a mystical experience. The Holy Spirit is not a force or influence, He is God. Every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit upon salvation and does not need more of Him after salvation [1 Corinthians 12:13]. Being filled with the Spirit is simply being under the control of the Holy Spirit. Being filled is allowing the Holy Spirit to head the command-center of your life and giving Him the ability to do with you as He pleases. You become the passenger and He becomes the pilot. If you do not submit yourself to the Holy Spirits control you are like a man wearing beer goggles driving a fully loaded box-truck down a Los Angeles interstate during rush hour.

Followers of Christ are commonly called the temple of God [cf. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 & 6:19-20]. In the OT the temple was the place where God dwells, and where His people offered sacrifices of worship God. However, since Christ’ death on the cross the structural temple is no longer needed because Jesus opened the access to God. Today His followers are the physical temple of God offering their lives as an offering and sacrifice to God [Romans 12:1-2].

Those who are filled with the Spirit use worshipful words [vs.19-20]. The result of being filled with the Holy Spirit is letting “the Word of God dwell within you richly.” [Colossians 3:16] In other words, the words and songs that flow from your lips match the Word of God. Words not of God can “grieve the Holy Spirit” [cf. 4:30].

What brings people together more than the words of the music? Arenas are packed with people singing the anthems of their favorite bands. Churches every Sunday gather together singing songs to their great God. Music has a powerful way of communicating and teaching truth in a unique way that speech or sermons cannot.

Worshipful words include, “giving thanks for everything.” [cf. 5:4] Does giving thanks for everything include evil done towards me, personal tragedy, problems related to sin and temptations, or periods of physical and spiritual suffering? Yes. Gratitude is an attitude that gives you a godly outlook on life and the greatness of God [Colossians 3:17]. God uses evil, tragedy, sin, and suffering for His glory. I have seen numerous times how God has used my moments of failure and struggle to teach me about His presence and provisions.

Those who are filled with the Spirit also submit to one another [v.21]. Everybody submits to someone or something. Employers submit to their companies, soldiers submit to their superiors, citizens submit to their authorities, and Christians submit to God and others over them. Followers of Christ are committed to each other like living stones of the temple of God encouraging and helping one another to worship God. We live in a society that bucks against authority therefore submission is look down upon. However, submission is for our good, the good of our community and for the glory of God.

In Ephesians 5:15-21, walking in wisdom is less about knowing facts, and more about living with God and one another. Walking in wisdom walks carefully, makes a good use of time, understands the will of God, is filled with the Holy Spirit, uses worshipful words, and is submissive to other followers of Christ. Walking in wisdom will take you down a beautiful road. When the paths of hardship come, as they will, godly wisdom will be like a loyal walking stick carrying you through the tight passes, rugged terrains, and steep slopes. Walking in wisdom is not easy, but it brings God glory.

walking in the light

There are innumerable benefits of light. The sun causes the earth to grow and keeps our body healthy. Flashes of lightning in a storm or glittering stars in the night sky bring delight to our awestruck eyes. A flashlight or nightlight in a dark place brings comfort to your fears and insecurities. Light is good.

Have you ever tried to walk around in a strange new place in the dark trying to find a light source? It can be difficult dodging objects trying to avoid knocking things over or stubbing your toes. Walking in the light is not only safe, but it is a theme for your spiritual life too.[1]

walking in the light avoids darkness [Ephesians 5:6-8a]

In the Bible, the theme of light and dark appears a lot.[2] Light usually refers to living in a way that pleases God, while darkness refers to living recklessly and selfishly. Throughout Ephesians it is clear that Paul is communicating with Christ followers. And followers of Christ are expected to walk in the light and avoid darkness [vs.6-8a].

The things that Paul was referring to are the “empty words” of physical and verbal immorality [cf. vs.3-5].[3] They are empty because they lack eternal substance and do not help a follower to walk in the light. It is uncertain who these people were. However, we do know they were trying to justify doing “these things.”

Immorality must be avoided because the wrath of God is upon sin. Since God is holy, He has righteous anger against sin. Disobedience deserves just consequence. A person characterized as a “son of disobedience” walks in a way that is characterized by habitual disobedience [cf. 2:2]. Only a fool would walk into a dark cave without a map and light. With each step you put yourself into further danger and your next step just might kill you. So it is if you do not submit to God’s authority. Removing yourself from His protection opens you up to the adversary’s attacks and ultimately divine destruction [cf. v.5; Romans 1:18-32].

Since, the consequence for an immoral life is so serious you are urged to not even partner with the practices of those who do not follow Christ. So am I supposed to be a monk that hides in a monastery away from the world my entire life? Of course not! It is impossible to step out of the world and avoid unbelievers completely, thus you are encouraged to be a light that shines Christ to the world. Walking in this manner is worthy of your calling and pleasing to God [cf. 4:1; 2 Corinthians 5:9; Romans 12:2; 14:18].

walking in the light is fruitful [Ephesians 5:8b-10]

The symbolic contrast between darkness and light is likened to that of death and life, poor and rich, old and new. Light and dark are polar opposites. Before Christ, unbelievers made their home in darkness [cf. Colossians 1:13], but Paul is speaking to believers saved by the Light of the World. Since they have the light they need to behave like they have the light.

When you shine the light of Christ the response is fruitful. What is the fruit of walking in the light? Christlikeness—goodness, righteousness, and truthfulness. God gets the glory for shining and fruit bearing. It is rare to see a person who is radiates selflessness, righteousness and truthfulness through and through. If you walk in the light you stick out in the crowd as if you are glowing in the dark because the light of Christ is shining supernaturally through you [cf. 4:24; Galatians 5;22; Philippians 1:11].

walking in the light is exposes secret sin [Ephesians 5:11-14]

Light and darkness are incompatible with one another. You cannot have both co-existing. Have you ever been in a dark room with a small candle? Or have you stood outside on a clear night with the stars above and a sliver of a moon? It is amazing the amount can be put out by a flickering flame or starry sky. A little light can pierce darkness.

It is no mistake that mischief happens during the dark for most burglaries and kidnappings happen in the middle of the night. Why? It is easier to hide and keep secret. Sin loves to hide secret crevasses and closets where there is no light. Sin can quickly slip into the shadows undisturbed for years. Sin is a nocturnal beast that thrives on living in darkness.

So shameful is secret immorality that it must not even be spoken [v.12; cf. 5:3]. Not that it is taboo, but evil must not be promoted or tolerated. Work that happens in darkness is not fruitful; rather it is destructive, unproductive, and does not please God.[4] Believers are to have nothing to do with darkness for a child of the light must look and live like the light.

Light has many benefits, but one of the greatest benefits is that light exposes darkness [cf. John 3:20]. If you walk in the light you are like a lighthouse to the world in distress seeking to find some sort of safe refuge from the storm. You will be a beacon that points people to Christ—the Rock and Strong Tower.

How should we go about exposing darkness? Exposing darkness is hard for most Christ followers because it makes them vulnerable. Therefore, walking in the light must be done humbly and helpfully as to restore a sinner to God through the life-transforming gospel of Christ. I saw this in a powerful way this week as one of our young people in FUEL Student Ministries posted some encouraging, but straightforward words on another young person Facebook wall who was sharing things that were vulgar and inappropriate. This young person was shining the light of Christ in darkness exposing sin and pointing the sinner to Christ.

Sometimes words shine, but moreover what shines the most is a consistent, genuine, everyday walk with God. I have hope that this young person will change because the light of Christ has the power to expose darkness and transform you in the light [cf. 2 Corinthians 4:6; John 3:19-21]. God can awaken anyone towards the light because living in darkness is frightening and miserable. As J.B. Phillip’s said, “It is even possible [after all, it happened to you!] for light to turn the thing it shines upon into light also”[5]


[1] Ephesians has a theme describing the negative and positive ways you are to “walk”: 2:2, 10; 4:17; 5:8; 5:2, 15

[2] Cf. Genesis 1:2-18; John 8:12; 1 Peter 2:9; 1 John 1:5-7; 2:9.

[3] Justifying immorality is not a new thing; 1 Corinthians 6:13; Galatians 1:6

[4] Cf. Matthew 13:22; Mark 4:19; Titus 3:14; 2 Peter 1:8; Jude 12.

[5] Peter Thomas O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, The Pillar New Testament commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 373.

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.

what does the Trinity teach us about relationships?

Within the Trinity there is both unity and diversity: unity without uniformity, and diversity without division. This unity and diversity is at the core of the great mystery of the Trinity. Unity without uniformity is baffling to our finite minds, but there are demonstrations of this truth all around us; like a symphony, the human body, ecosystems, the church, the human race, a delicious meal, or a sporting event. Unity and diversity are woven into the fabric of the world by multiple images of the One who made it with unity and diversity.

Our human relationships uniquely and divinely reminisce the relationship between the Persons of the Trinity. This is no mistake, since man’s Maker stamped each man in His image. Most people never consider where this similarity has originated, but God has innately marked His creation with creative features that mimic Him—including our relationships. Today we will look at three distinct relationships that the Bible demonstrated both the unity and diversity of the Trinity:

Marriage is a relationship that demonstrates the Trinity’s unity and diversity [Ephesians 5:22-33]

Marriage is a wonderful picture that God uses to demonstrate His character as an unconditional, faithful, and sacrificial Lover. From the beginning of Creation God made man equal in His image [Genesis 1:26-27]. Though man and woman are quite diverse in appearance and God-given roles [Genesis 2; 1 Peter 3:1-7], they are both equally made in the image of God. If only man and woman within marriage would consider one another images of God, much of the conflict and chauvinism would dissipate.

The unifying love that Jesus has for His church is a beautiful demonstration of marriage [Ephesians 5:22ff]. Marriage is pictured in Christ sacrificing Himself for His church and the church submitted to Christ, which is paralleled by the husbands love his wife, the wife submitted to her husband, and both out of reverence towards Christ.

Church Body is a relationship that demonstrates the Trinity’s unity and diversity [Ephesians 4:1-16]

There is a glorious union between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Biblical Christianity stands or falls with the doctrine of the Trinity. Within the doctrine of the Trinity there are practical Implications. First, the Trinity makes God known in Christ [John 1:18; Exodus 33:20; 1 Timothy 6:16]. Second, the Trinity makes the salvation possible [Hebrew 9:14]. Third, the Trinity is fully dependent upon Himself [Acts 17:25]. Fourth, The Trinity provides the ultimate model for relationships within the body of Christ [1 Corinthians 11:3; 12:4–6; Ephesians 4:4–7].

When believers enter into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ they are adopted into God’s family—the church. The church body is made up of members who are all equal in the eyes of God. God in His divine purposes designed the church to function locally as a means for each member to grow spiritually through mutual relations and gift-oriented ministry with one another. Within His Body, God has given all a diverse role in order for the church to be unified in its display of God’s glory. God gave to the church offices: elders and deacons from the membership who are equal, but the elders are supposed to lead, the deacon’s serve, and the membership minister. When each one is doing their part the Body is a beautiful reflection of God’s unity and diversity.

Leadership (i.e. parenting & governing authority) is a relationship that demonstrates the Trinity’s unity and diversity [Ephesians 6:1-9]

The Trinity—God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit—one God, three persons, all equal but submissive. God the Son submits to God the Father and recognizes Him as the leader. There is leadership within the Trinity. This is called relational subordination.

Jesus, though He is equal with God, willfully submits Himself to the Father. He submits to the Father out of love [John 4:34; 14:31; 15:9-10], reverence for His divine authority [1 Corinthians 11:3; 15:25-28; John 3:16-17; 10:36; 6:38], and reliance upon the Holy Spirit for power and direction [Luke 4:1-2, 16-21]. Likewise, it is marvelous how the Father shines His spotlight on the Son as He purposes all things to be subject to Jesus [Psalm 2:7-9; Ephesians 1:9-10; 5:21; 1 Corinthians 15:27-28; Revelation 5:1-5, 8-9]. Likewise, the Holy Spirit pours forth the message of Jesus in the Word of God [2 Timothy 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:20-21, Luke 24:24-27, 44, 1 Corinthians 1:18, 23, 2:2, Galatians 6:14].

Submission to leadership practically plays itself out in two ways: through parenting and governing authorities. In the government of a home: mom, dad, and the children are equal made in God’s image, but dad’s are supposed to lovingly, humbly, and sacrificially lead [Ephesians 6:1-4]. Also, God appoints government leaders and bosses, and our response is to joyfully submit as if we are laboring for God [Ephesians 6:5-9; Romans 13:1-7]. This can be difficult especially in a world that is filled with crooked politicians, unreasonable employers, and passive fathers, but we have an awesome example to follow in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

In conclusion, the Trinity gives us a multifaceted look at relationships. Whether, in a marriage, church, home, business or nation God has demonstrated to us unity within diversity. Imagine if in each arena of your life you were to embrace the diversity rather than run from it, what unity could there be?