There is a lot of darkness in the world. The media bombards us with stories of injustice, violence, false accusations, oppression, and corruption. We see people who are caught in a web of sin, and can’t seem to find their way to a healthy way of life. We probably know people who are looking for a better life, but in all the wrong places, and in all the wrong ways. Paul tells the church something that we need to do in this present dark time for the future generation still to come. God wants us to be light in the darkness. Paul says in (v8), “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.”
Yet bringing light into our world is not always easy. If there is darkness at work or school, how can you bring light into that environment? If you see darkness in your friends, how can you help them see a better way? If there is darkness in your family, what can you say and do to help those you love?
What does it mean to imitate something or someone? First it requires an authentic original to imitate. Our lives are to imitate, to copy the character of God. R C Sproul said this in his commentary on Ephesians “An imitation is a copy based upon an authentic original. The authentic fountainhead, the original source of righteousness is God himself, and God’s people are called to bear witness to the original and to the authentic.” Paul is expressing to the church, what it means to live a life of godliness. And he begins chapter five with admonition “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly beloved children.” (v1) This is not something we are to take lightly…this is a heavy admonition to tell the church. God commands purity of His bride, this is nothing new for the church to understand. Honoring God in what we say, think, and do, is to be common spiritual practices in the Christian life without excuses. Thomas Kempis said this in his book “The Imitation Of Christ”, “Two things specially avail unto improvement in holiness, namely firmness to withdraw ourselves from the sin to which by nature we are most inclined, and earnest zeal for that good in which we are most lacking.” What we lack the most is expressing this out in our lives, because we forget the character of God through the expression of His Son.
The New Testament describes Christ Jesus is the “express image of God.” 2 Cor 4:4 we are reminded of this truth “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Col 1:15 says “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. The New Testament describes Christ Jesus is the “brightness of the glory of God.” Heb 1:3 says “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” It’s through this truth that “we, the beloved” are to be like. Though we are not Christ, in perfect and sinless; we are to imitate Him none the less because of the gospel that saved us from darkness.
Why? We are image bearers of God; we are the pinnacle of His creation because we are created in His image. Gen 1:26-27 says this “Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” We have been engraved with the likeness of God, though we are not gods, we are created with a nature like God. We are called to living image bearers that reflect and communicate the character of God to a lost and broken world riddled with sin and despair. Leviticus 11:44-45 says “For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground. For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy." We, the church, know this is to be our character because Peter said “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:16. Our lives are to be copies of the original source which God himself.
How do we imitate God to a world that is riddled with sin and hates the things of God?
Paul gives us the answer to that question in these verses. Mimic as Children of God.
“be imitators of God, as beloved children.” (v1)
“Imitator” is a term from which we get the word “mimic.” Kindness, tender-heartedness, and forgiveness are characteristics of God, who is love. We need to remind ourselves that God is infinitely kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving, and we achieve this though imitating or mimicking our God. As God has treated you, so we are to reflect Him in our relations with others. Not just people in the church, or people you personally like, but towards everyone. Matt 5:43-45 Jesus says "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
Remember what Paul taught us previously in chapter four? Eph 4:32 says “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Living towards other and treating others the way God treated us is what we are to do in return. We have been forgiven of many things that have been satisfied on the Cross of Christ and we are called to demonstrate that in our lives as well with anyone and everyone. What helps us to imitate God to a lost and darkened world? By reminding ourselves of what Christ has done for us through the gospel. It changes everything! From the way we think, act and respond to others, when we have been hurt or see the hurt in others we cause. Paul’s highlighting our identity in Christ as the motive for our obedience. Understand though! We obey because we are loved by God; we are not loved because we obey. The love of God the Father precedes, leads to this outcome in the child of God’s life. And this in return motivates the obedience of His children through the gospel confession. Col 3:12-17 says “Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
John MacArthur said “The greatest evidence of love is undeserved forgiveness. The supreme act of God’s love was to give “His only begotten Son”…”
Because forgiveness is the supreme evidence of God’s love to us in the gospel, it will also be the most convincing proof of our love and transformed heart. The love of God will always lead us to forgive others, just as it led God in Christ to forgive us. Unforgiving heart discloses the truth of the heart.
We are to mimic God by living a life that pleasing to Him.
“And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (v2)
Imitating God means imitating His Son, and that means doing whatever is required to make our lives a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. The smell of Jesus, the fragrance of the Savior that we are to have, waft from our lives also including offering and sacrifice. This is in reference to the Old Testament where people brought an offering to God and sacrificed it upon the altar so that its fiery consumption would cause the odor of a sweet sacrifice to God.
What is beautiful about this is……. The most beautiful and sweetest aroma ever to reach the Heavens and the full satisfaction of the Father is the perfect sacrifice of His Son for the sins of mankind. The most beautiful aroma that God has ever detected emanating from this planet is the sacrifice of His Son on the Cross. This is humbling to know that Christ has fulfilled this aroma for you and me through His death and resurrection. We are to imitate this love and in turn produce a fragrance that is pleasing to God on the grounds of what Christ has already fulfilled for His sanctified children. As Christ imitates the Father, so we are called to imitate Him.
Understand though! This mimicking and offering comes with a cost on this earth. In order to die with, and to Christ, one has to first die to self. There will be sacrifice on our part and that might cause us temporal discomfort for the sake of the gospel confession. In a world full of people caught up in sinful practices and attitudes; living like Jesus for the sake of others, will involve both giving of ourselves and dying to ourselves. In this Christian life the more you conform into the image of Christ you will experience some pain along the way. What enables us to bear this pain is savoring our identity in Christ as children of God. Jesus said this "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” John 15:18-20. We as God’s children cannot look to fare better with the world than Jesus, our Master did during His time on earth. We know the world at large hated Him, so we must expect they will do the same to us. Imitating our Lord comes with sacrifice and possible suffering but it’s all for the glory of His holy name because Christ died for me.
What are some ways we can be a sweet smelling aroma to God through our gospel confession?
The Aroma of our prayers
Rev 5:8-9 says “And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,”
Our prayers consist of….
Thanksgiving (1 Timothy 2:1)
Forgiveness (1 John 1:9)
Intercession (1 Timothy 2:1)
Praise and adoration (Psalm 148:1–14)
Utter dependence (Matthew 7:7)
Seeking wisdom (James 1:5)
Petitions and supplications (1 Timothy 2:1; Philippians 4:6)
Seeking peace (Philippians 4:6–7)
Salvation (Romans 10:9–10)
Our moments of daily habitual prayers are so precious to God He keeps them in “Golden Bowl”
The aroma of our repentance.
Psalm 51:17 as David said “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” A genuine heart that desires God to forgive through our repentance He will be no means cast aside or say “I’m too busy come back later.”
The aroma of our witness
2 Cor 2:14-17 says “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” We don’t know who are the elect of God are! So we go out loving this world with the gospel truth to those who embrace the gospel and live and to those who reject the gospel leading to death. Our witnesses to His grace in our lives are more than a testimony,…they are a sweet smelling fragrance to the Heavens declaring the glorious gospel.
The aroma of our love
John 15:13 reminds of this truth “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” The greatest act of love ever performed was when Jesus freely offered up his life for the sins of his children. He suffered unimaginably with untold emotional, spiritual, and physical pain on a cross. Are we willing to go to the ends of the earth for a friend, even if it means dying so that they could know the gospel and live? The Apostle Paul was “…that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” Rom 9:2-3. Willing to die for the sake of a friend so that they too would hear and respond to the Gospel.
As the aroma of Christ, what perfumes do Christians bring with them as they walk into a room? This is not something that can be bought in a bottle or a jar. When we spend a lot of time with someone, we begin to think and act like that person. Spending time with Jesus will help us spread a pleasing fragrance to those around us. As one Christian writer said “It is when we are expressing Christ in this way that we too become a fragrant offering to God. And that, indeed, is an aroma which he could breathe in all day long.”
Let me ask you! Have you ever invited someone to imitate you as you imitate Christ? Understand so many characteristics are “caught” rather than “taught”. God’s word has a major affect when it’s joined to his example of self-sacrificial living for the glory for His holy name. This can be a daunting task since we are not perfect, but perfection isn’t what is required. What is needed is a sincere faith in Christ, the kind of faith that fuels quick and humble repentance, a forgiving heart, and a joy in Christ through the gospel. As one theologian said “The person who is diligent in imitating Christ will have faith in the Lord and repentance over sin that is evident. He will be committed to becoming more and more like Christ and will be unsatisfied with every shortcoming. Every serious Christian should find someone like that and seek to follow his or her example.” We are to pursue and chase after godliness, not because it’s going to win favor with a holy God, but because we want to be more like Christ and less of self. Because the more we are emulate Christ in our lives the more we demonstrate God’s love towards everyone else.
Have you done that? To go deeper than that! Have you ever followed Paul’s example and invite someone to imitate you as you imitate Christ?