THE CHURCH: GOD’S NEW SOCIETY
Improving Your Love-Life
Jerry A Collins
v Why is it important whom we imitate?
v What kind of behavior is improper for believers?
v Do you want to pursue what id closest to God’s character?
I had a laugh this week when a friend told me of a group of people he used to hang around with. As an outsider now, he has noticed how the group dynamics center on imitating one particular man and woman in the group. This guy pulls up in a new car and very soon each of the others will pull up with the sane car. The woman will get into a certain fashion and yes the other women in the group will be wearing the same brand and fashion too. He said that recently he was invited to join this group for a get-together and he watched each of the guys drive up in the same car one by one. Then he saw the wives get out of the cars with the same fashion wear one by one each carrying a small dog under one arm since it is apparently in fashion to have a small dog like many of the Hollywood actresses to carry around shopping with you. There is nothing wrong with imitating someone. I would like to imitate Tiger Woods for instance. Think about this. God wants us to imitate Him.
There are things we must ‘lay aside’ in order to do this 4:22 & 4:25. In 5:1 we are told exactly that “be imitators of God”. The idea is to be a copier—one who impersonates. God wants us to imitate but just how are we to do this? Let me suggest first of all that we are not being asked to imitate God’s attributes. This is the confusion of Satan and the cults like the Mormons. They want to be like God in the sense of God’s attributes like omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience. These are what we commonly call incommunicable attributes. Those attributes of God’s character, which are inherently, Divine. No one can possess these attributes because no one can like God as God. What Got Satan in trouble was His desire to have a share in the nature of God so that He might compete with God as God. That was impossible and justified His condemnation. But our passage also suggests that there is a way in which we can imitate God. Namely, imitating God’s moral preferences that emanate form His character and we can put on display in our own lives. So the injunction, ‘be imitators of God’. God wants us to impersonate Him. The bar is raised as high as it can go. I do not think we would give this kind of thing much thought unless we were taught to do so. Let’s learn how to do this.
IMITATING GOD MEANS LOVING EACH OTHER SACRIFICAILLY
He begins by reminding us we are ‘beloved children’. Children often imitate their parents. So as believers we ought to imitate God our Father. We do this by ‘walking in love’. The conduct of our lives has been a regular theme throughout the book—2:2, 10; 4:1, 17; 5:2, 8, 15. In each case it is the manner of our behavior that is in view. Here the behavior is sacrificial love, which is giving without reciprocity. We know this because this love is further qualified by ‘just as Christ also loved you’. So the standard by which we measure our manner of loving is the manner in which Christ loved us. And what manner was this? He ‘gave Himself up for us’ ‘as an offering and a sacrifice to God’. The first concept is ‘substitution’. He voluntarily died in my place. He took the hit for me. So notice that what He did He did with me in mind—in my best interest. This is an essential component of God’s love—the loving manner in which we are to imitate. But another aspect of this love is as ‘an offering and a sacrifice’. This love costs something to manifest. Love by its very nature is sacrificial since it is giving—becoming an offering of some kind without reciprocity. It is giving (offering, sacrificing) something that is in the best interest of another. Now this kind of demonstration is savored by God. It is very pleasing to Him ‘a fragrant aroma’. In order to stay the course we will have to keep Jesus standard of a loving manner as the measure of our own. Don’t dumb it down. Don’t make it easy. Don’t focus on yourself.
IMITATING GOD IS LIVING WITHOUT ANY ACCUSATIONS OF IMMORALITY OR GREED
The first three vices cover two kinds of lust in vs 3. Sexual lust and material lust. Immorality and any impurity prohibit sexually lustful behavior. Linked together they cover every kind of sexually deviant behavior that violates God’s standard in scripture. The third vice, greed, prohibits material lust—a craving for more and more. So in our lives there should not even be a hint of lustful craving. Think about it. These are the two lustful cravings of the world and must never be so of believers. It is contrary to the nature of God’s children. This one-two punch of sexuality and materialism hits home every day. God wants us to imitate Him right where we live out our lives, raise our families, do our jobs, pay our bills, and manage our money. Don’t ever do anything to place yourself in a situation where you might be accused of lustful behavior sexually or materially.
IMITATING GOD MEANS EDITING OUR SPEECH.
The next set of vices in vs 4 hit our mouth not only our hearts and pocketbook. These three vices include ‘filthiness or obscene speech’ which is filthy, demeaning and shameful speech. The next one is ‘silly talk’ which is silly or stupid conversation. The final one is ‘coarse jesting’ which is vulgar, frivolous wit, or double meaning jesting with risque’ innuendo. These vices are never fitting or proper imitation of God. What is fitting conversationally is ‘thanksgiving’. Thanksgiving is a basic feature of Christian living and ethics. Consecrated to God, this kind of speech has absolutely no place in our lives and relationships. We live in a filthy and vulgar culture. So imitating God is not adapting to our culture but supplanting it. Not seeing what we can get away with but pursuing what is closest to the heart of God. A life-style of gratitude in contrast to coarse and vulgar conversation must be our passion.
IMITATING GOD IS CONSISTENT WITH OUR IDENTITY
What is the motivation we have to imitate God? Well, it certainly does not come from an unbeliever’s actions and attitudes. That we know ‘with certainty’. There is no good reason why any believer would take his/her queue to imitate God form an unbeliever’s lifestyle. Lustful and greedy people have no inheritance in Christ’s kingdom. The greedy one is even an idolater—idols are simply ways to replace God with your own. Your greed and lustful passions captivate and drive you to have what you want. God is marginalized. Since these kinds of people have no kingdom inheritance then you have no business imitating them. But watch out lest you believe otherwise vs 6a—with thinking that contradicts or disagrees and leads you astray. Disobedient to God, idolaters’, and sinfully corrupt people will have Gods wrath in the end. God is not in their equation and their lifestyles are a testimony to this. All that is left for them is judgment. So do not be enamored by their sinful behavior. Don’t imitate it. You no longer belong there. Stop it. That is not who you are.
1. If you are going to imitate God it is going to make you uncomfortable and different.
2. Get all forms of lustful ideas, images and actions out of your life.
3. Take more seriously how you talk. Be careful what and how you communicate. No trash talk, blasphemy of filthy stories.
4. Do not use any unbeliever as a role model.