Monday, March 05, 2018

Sermon on Ephesians 5:1-9, for the 3rd Sunday in Lent (1 Yr Lectionary), "Imitators of God"

Sermon Note Outline:
·         Imitation—natural to those we admire; but also even unwittingly copy bad examples. Copy what we see and experience—not what we don’t know. (Good case for not knowing evil! And keeping the example of Christ ever before us!)
·         Imitate? What is God like? Known in Christ. 1:3—every spiritual blessing, 1:5—adoption as sons through Christ, 1:7—redemption, forgiveness; 1:18—glorious inheritance. God is lavish in blessing us, profound in generosity and mercy. Can’t imitate what is uniquely God’s—salvation, source of every blessing, giver of eternal life. Never “match” His goodness, yet Jesus calls us “be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Will never exceed His example, but His grace, His love and Spirit poured into us is the resource to imitate—to begin to act like Him. Can forgive, walk in love, reflect God’s generosity, live out His compassion, humility, self-sacrifice, etc.
·         And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Steps guided and directed by Christ’s love. Not side paths, diversions, and dead ends of the world.
·         Explains new identity with several representative sins of body, heart, and mouth. Not of God’s love: don’t flow from His laws & commands.  Sexual immorality and all impurity—glamourized and normalized as “love” by the world, but not from God’s love. It takes what is not promised and committed to us, regardless of God’s command. But love by God’s design is committed and faithful, between a man and a woman in marriage. God gives the place for love to flourish. God’s love calls us to purity—to chastity outside marriage, and faithful monogamy inside it. Sexual temptation is everywhere, internet and permissiveness of our culture increases the temptation, books, movies. Keep watch on yourselves, guard your eyes, heart, body
·         Covetousness—greed, hunger for more. That is idolatry. Greed= poisonous vice. consuming more and more—never satisfied, like fire. It burns in power structures, economies, and yes, even in churches. Not some external stain on impersonal institutions or corporations or something—an internal stain on hearts and motives. all-consuming, never satisfied hunger. What about basic needs, dreams and desires? not inherently wrong to pursue excellence, to want to earn a living, or to gain something you are working for. God knows our needs and provides them. But greed casts a different shade on things, from contentment to dissatisfaction. From earning to cheating or bitter rivalry. From thankfulness to ingratitude and complaining. Greed is a difficult thing to dislodge from our hearts, but it begins with the call and the forgiveness of Christ. His love renews our hearts. Contentment, work, effort, generosity.
·         Must not even be named among you—guard reputation, practice purity, separate from sons of disobedience/evildoers. Self-control and purity to guard against evil talk and rumors—above suspicion.
·         Filthiness, foolish talk, crude joking—way we use our mouths. Dirty language, lewd jokes, foolish words. Sinking level of humor and entertainment—again, easy to place blame outside of us, but how do we use our mouths? Thanksgiving? Or dirty talk? What do we find entertaining? Are we feeding the market for trash talk, or do we expect better?
·         No inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Wake up call—forceful warning against our sinful flesh and blood that so easily sink down to these things. These things do not belong to the kingdom of God or the love of Christ, we must separate from them. Eternal life or eternal judgment is at stake. Don’t be deceived by those who would talk down the danger of these sins.
·         At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, walk as children of light. Description of identity, not circumstances. Not “in” darkness, and “in” light. Rescued away from the darkness of our identity in sin. Darkness swirls with self-deception, greed, lust, impurity. Daily put to death in repentance and baptism the old sinful nature. Walk forward as children of light. New person emerges from baptism—daily renewal by the Holy Spirit. Shed the garments of sin, clothed in light.
·         Powerful identity transformation—not our power, but God’s. Be imitators of God, as beloved children. Beloved, lovely. Baptismal sermon—dear and precious to God, as Christ is beloved. The affection of God’s heart is on us. As beloved, adopted children, God’s love is at work in us. Making new, recreating, turning our feet into the path of His love. To inherit the kingdom of Christ and God, our identity is first and last in Him. Bodies given in faithful love and service to Him and our neighbor—not used for impurity. Mouths to praise, to sing, to give thanks to God, encourage, build up, spread the truth in love. Beautiful words on our lips. Hearts filled with love—are content, are generous, worship God alone—no worthless idols or money. Image of high priest Joshua in prophet Zechariah—clothed in filthy rags, stood accused by Satan, but is re-clothed in fine priestly garments and his guilt is taken away. We also stand before Jesus, helpless on our own to be free of the darkness, but ready to have Him strip our sins and guilt away, free us from the devil’s accusations, and the stain of our sin. Beloved by God—He does this all for us in Christ. We are dear and precious to His heart. Keep His example always before you, and follow it with delight, as children love to mimic their parents!  Pray: Lord Jesus, may your love have its way in me, transforming me to reflect your glory, and that I may always imitate God, as your dearly beloved child. Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
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  1. In order to imitate someone, you first need to know what they are like? How do we know what God is like? Who shows us? What are some of the things that God does, and that describe who He is?
  2. Give a biblical definition of “love”. How does God’s love differ from the love we usually think of in the world? Why is His love both more difficult to imitate, and also more worthy of our imitation? How does God supply His love to us, so we can do this? Romans 5:5
  3. What are some behaviors that the world embraces, and that deceptive talk excuses, but are not acceptable for the saints or children of God to be involved with? Ephesians 5:3-8.
  4. Sexual immorality, lewd language, and greed are all manifestations of sin in our body, mouth, and heart. When these three are governed by Christ’s love instead, how do we use our members to please God?
  5. Covetousness, or greed—describe what this is. Why does vs. 5 call this idolatry? What idol(s) does it involve? If we are engaged in these sins, and do not repent, what do we forsake? Ephesians 5:5-6; 1 Cor. 6:9-11.
  6. Vs. 7 says “do not become partners with them.” Why is it essential that we don’t participate or share in the sins of the “sons of disobedience”? Galatians 6:1. How did Jesus maintain the balance of ministering to the sinners and the lost, while not joining in their sins? Luke 5:30; 15:1-2; Hebrews 4:15; John 8:11.
  7. Ephesians 5:8-9 says that at one time we were darkness. This speaks to our sinful nature. Now we are light. Both of these speak of identity, not just circumstances. How has our identity been transformed in Christ? Who gets all the glory for this?

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