Perhaps the task is easy for others or perhaps it is difficult for most anyone. For instance, only about 4,500 have reached the summit of Mount Everest (although it has been reached about 7,700 times because many have accomplished the feat multiple times. Conversely, nearly 300 people have died on Everest trying to reach the summit.
But not everything needs to be that grand of a task. For instance, one accomplishment I never achieved was doing a pullup. I was an athletic boy, but I did not have the upper body strength to do that and had to watch others do 10, 15, 20 or more in elementary school each year. I knew what to do, but could not do it.
Personally, I believe that is one of the most challenging aspects of life. When we know what to do, but cannot do it, we often get frustrated. On the other hand, we might watch others be successful at something even though they do not really know what they are doing. For me, it was my ability to conduct music as a young child. I mimicked the music leader in our church and the choir and/or congregation seemed to do just fine.
The reality is that when we cannot do something, we usually feel inferior. But many times, pull-ups for me excluded, when we imitate what others do, we learn to do what was previously impossible, or at least difficult. And as the old adage goes, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” If this statement is true then not only can our imitating others help us learn new skills, but we show others that we value what they can do.
However, flattery can be defined as “insincere praise.” If we consider this definition, then per the old quote, we could make it “Imitation is the sincerest form of insincere praise.” I am not quite certain what to do with that thought. But while we leave the thought behind, we must cling to the idea of imitation for that is the essence of the message this week.
Again, imitating others is a way we can learn, but not all imitation will be successful. Thus, some individuals are not willing to imitate others at all for fear of failure. The idea is that no matter how much I try, I am inferior, and do not want to be made a fool. Thus, if I make no attempt, then I am safe. But are we really safe? Or are we just duping ourselves?
As we focus on our need to make disciples, the idea of imitation is one important piece of how Jesus trained His disciples. In Mark 3.14, it says Jesus appointed the Twelve so He might be with them and send them out. Being with them allowed Him to teach the disciples and show them what to do. Sending them out allowed them to put their knowledge to the test. Thus, we have a model for discipleship, given by the One who told us to make disciples.
At this point, I want to remind us about our three overarching reasons we do not make disciples. But, today I want to add a fourth as well.
- We don’t understand Jesus (it is our responsibility too, not just 1st Century disciples)
- We don’t believe God (He is greater than the problems we will face)
- We don’t love Jesus (If you love me, you will obey my commandments – make disciples)
- We don’t know how.
This issue is real and is partly our fault and partly not. It is not our fault because when Christianity was widely accepted and people went to church because it was the cultural thing to do, few focused on discipleship. Therefore, most were not taught to be disciples and therefore were ill-equipped to make disciples. Today, we are experiencing a lack of fruit because of that lack of attention to discipling.
However, we must take responsibility because the Bible clearly commands us to make disciples. In your job, if you are required to do something and don’t know how to do it, you figure out a way. In Christianity, we often don’t figure out a way because someone else will do it, or my favorite, that’s why we pay the pastor.
I could dive deep into this thought here, but I will only make this statement. The Bible never teaches that the pastor is to do the work of ministry. Rather, it says that the pastor, and other church leaders are to equip the saints to do the work of ministry. As a fellow saint, the pastor should be involved in the work, but nowhere is the pastor expected to do it alone.
With that said, let us take a moment to talk through our GPS. Join with me as we recite our Vision, Mission, Strategy, and Steps.
To be A large church in a small town. (Matthew 5.13-16)
Exalt the Savior (John 12.32).
Equip the Saint (Ephesians 4.11-13).
Evangelize the Sinner (Acts 1.8).
Jesus (Matthew 16.18-19) – The One worth following.
Observe (Colossians 1.28-29) – Following the commands of Jesus.
Unite (1 Corinthians 1.10) – Being one in fellowship with other believers.
Revere (John 12.32) – Worshipping God in all aspects of our lives.
Nurture (Eph 4.12-13) – Building up others for the work of ministry.
Engage (Acts 1.8) – Stirring the hearts of all people with the Gospel.
You (Matt. 15.15-16) – The one who decides to follow.
Learn With Each Other (Acts 17.10-12)
Live For Each Other (Rom 15.1-2)
Love God and All Others (Matt 22.37-39)
Lead One Another (to Follow Jesus) (2 Tim 2.2)
(Leave) When Called by the One True Other (Acts 13.1-3)
Now, before we get to our Teaching Moment, let me quickly summarize Ephesians for us so we are prepared to unpack chapter 5.
Ephesians 1-3 How to Believe
Ephesians 4-6 How to Live
Ch 1: Our identity is in Christ
Ch 2: “But God” saved us so we are one because of Christ
Ch 3: God’s plan for all time was revealed through Christ
Ch 4: Our walk with God should match our faith
Ch 5: Our walk with God should reveal our love
Ch 6: Continue Chap 5 (love); be prepared to face the enemy
TEACHING MOMENT – Andy (ENGAGE)
Let us now turn our attention to Ephesians 5. As we do, we will immediately begin to understand why I have used the title I did. In the first five words of this chapter, we are told to be imitators of God. Is Paul serious? Is this possible? Well, I do believe Paul is serious, and I do not believe God would ask us to do it if such a command were not possible. Now, imitating God is not possible in our power, but as we are reminded elsewhere in Scripture, “With God all things are possible.”
But look at the verse a little more closely. Paul doesn’t say, “Andy, imitate God.” He says, “children” (plural). We, as the church, are to collectively imitate God. How can we do that? What are we supposed to do? Let’s see what Paul says.
A disciple-making church walks in love. (vv. 1-2)
In Ephesians 4, Paul uses the word “walk” three times. In chapter 5, he uses walk another three times. The word literally means “to walk” but Paul’s usage relates to how we live our lives, specifically as Christians. So, first, we, the church, are to walk in love. We cannot make disciples if we do not have a love of people. Ambivalence towards others is not to directly condemn someone to hell, but may effectively do the same. On the other hand, to actively help someone grow in their knowledge, service, and love of Christ requires love.
Paul shares the reality that this kind of love is not easy. We are to love as Christ loved. Christ was beaten and battered because of His deep love for us. During our study of Mark, I talked about the ointment that was put on Jesus less than a week before He died. I mentioned that the stench of His body after being tortured would have carried a whiff of that ointment as well. But to God, the fragrance mentioned in verse 2 here is not a literal smell, but an expression of the obedience Christ showed when He was offered as a sacrifice.
If we shift to the end of our passage today, we find, in verse 21, another reference to the work of Christ. To make disciples we must submit to one another because of our place in Christ. Paul is writing to two groups who distrusted one another to great ends. The Jew thought the Gentile detestable and the Gentile wanted nothing to do with the Jew. But in chapter 2, Paul says the work of Jesus broke down “the wall of hostility” and they should live accordingly. Why? Because they share one Father.
Fairfax Baptist Church, do we carry animosity towards one another? Our imitation of God must begin with love. We are to unite together as fellow members of Fairfax Baptist Church. But we are to unite together with fellow members of the body of Christ. As I mentioned last week, we must stand strong for God’s truth – as that is an important element in making disciples, but to follow Christ is to walk in love. To follow Christ is to sacrifice our desires for the good of others. It is to extend our boundaries beyond our Jerusalem to the end of the earth. Let us make sure to love our brothers and sisters within our congregation and then extend that love to fellow Christians, and ultimately to those who need to know about Christ as well.
A disciple-making church walks in light. (vv. 3-14)
Paul provides a little more detail here. Walking in love is a bit ambiguous. But when discussing walking in light, Paul provides some specifics that we should avoid.
In our culture today, people will have different definitions for this idea, but trust me when I say that the culture in Ephesus was probably as bad, and likely worse, than ours is today. Regardless, it is difficult to escape sexual references in television, movies, advertisements, etc. But if we are to imitate God, we must seek to avoid finding ourselves in compromising situations – according to God’s standards, not ours.
Impurity – All Impurity
Paul means to be pure in thought and in deed.
Of course, this is the tenth commandment, but to isolate the command here shows the problem was real. It may not have been about the neighbor’s new car, but like Paul says in verse 4, we should be thankful for what we have, not jealous for what we don’t.
No Foolish Talk or Crude Joking
Paul has just mentioned in Eph. 4.29 not to let any unwholesome talk come from your mouths. Now, he reiterates. In James 3, James asks how can a tongue praise God and curse people. How can the same mouth produce such a drastic difference in speech? I am afraid many Christians have used their tongue in far more damaging ways than in ways that have been beneficial for the sake of the Kingdom.
How can this be? By knowing the truth? Remember last week, the people of Corinth had been deceived by some false leaders. Why? They didn’t stand firm in the truth they already knew. We are responsible for one another. Let us encourage one another in, by, and for the truth.
Don’t Partner with Darkness
Such a statement may seem obvious, but we do it all the time. This week, I faced a situation where I had a chance to provide an opportunity for someone to do something they wanted, and I could probably have made it work so that no one would have found out. It wasn’t illegal, but if I had chosen to do it, it would have been immoral, and would have been partnering with darkness in an opportunity that is designed to glorify God.
Before continuing, take a moment to read the warning in Ephesians 5.5.
Instead, Paul tells us what a God-imitator would do.
Walk as Children of Light
Our walk and our talk should be evidence of our faith. In Romans 10, Paul wrote that the gospel comes by hearing, but people will be deaf to our words if our walk does not match our talk. Do your actions match your voice?
Discern What Is Pleasing to the Lord
In some manner, this step can be difficult. But in reality, we often make it far more difficult than it really is. Paul is writing to believers, that is important to remember. Most believers know what God wants, but most of us often find ways to forget or make excuses for doing something else. If we are spending time with God – which is what a good imitator has to do – then we should find it easier to not only know what God finds pleasing, but we should find it easier to do it as well.
Expose the Darkness
Light exposes darkness. Without light, we would not know what darkness was. The first recorded words in the Bible are “Let there be light.” Why? So that we could see once we were created. And our job now is to expose the evil, to expose the darkness. Why? Because that is what God does and we are to imitate Him.
Fairfax Baptist Church, how is our walk? Do you encourage others in their walk as they are challenged by some of these areas? Are you exposing darkness and seeking to please the Lord? Again, Paul is not writing to the individual, he is writing to the church? We are to help one another, but for some reason we have concluded, “Well, that is none of my business.” But it is! If we are to make disciples, we must make it our business, because making disciples was the Lord’s command and thus doing so will be pleasing to Him. We don’t need to be rude about it, but we must be willing to offer correction as well as being open to correction as well.
A disciple-making church walks in wisdom. (vv. 15-21)
Paul closes this section with a very direct statement – make the best use of the time. What does that mean? Does that mean you can never have down time? That you can never have alone time (or “me time” as it is often called)?
No, but Paul definitely equates our use of time with both the Lord’s will and with being wise. Take a moment to read verse 15 then verse 17. Now, read verse 16 and see how that verse ties the other two together.
Paul is saying we need to make life count. Our walk is not to be wasted. We are to do God’s will and God has too much for us to do. What God has for you and what He has for me may not be the same. BUT, whatever He has for you – make it count. Just like I need to “make it count” whatever He has for me.
Paul then makes a comparison with that which we fill ourselves – being drunk with wine or with the Spirit? One, excessive drinking, is unwise and leads to indulgence and sensual pleasures. The other, being filled with the Spirit, leads to pleasing God. Then Paul makes an odd statement – he was we should not only sing to God, but we should sing to one another. Some debate exists if Paul is using three terms to mean the same idea (psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs), but I believe he is writing about three different forms of songs or music. Regardless, he writes that we are to sing – again, to one another as well to God expressing our thanks to Him.
Fairfax Baptist Church, are we making our time count? Is our walk reflecting the will of God for us collectively? If our walk considered wise by God? How do you use your time? Do you know how you spend your time or do you just live day to day and wonder what has happened to the first-half of 2017. Without a doubt, life seems to get busier and busier each year. But that is our fault, not God’s. God gave us all 24 hours in day. Recently, I had a conversation about how people often wish for more time in a day. However, if we cannot handle 24, what makes us think we can handle more? That is a very good point. But what are you doing with your time? What am I doing with mine? What are we doing together to advance God’s cause? Those are the questions we must consider if we are to be effective in fulfilling His will.
I began this message with the idea of imitation. Paul wrote that we are to imitate God. We have seen a glimpse of what that could mean, but the reality is that learning to imitate God is likely the greatest challenge any of us could ever face. And, this I promise you, you cannot do it alone. You were not designed to do it alone. That is why Jesus said, “I will build my church” and it is why He told His church to make disciples. That task is to be our business. That task is our purpose. To accomplish that, we must engage with one another, with other believers, and with all people – whether they are within our Jerusalem or if they are as far away as the ends of the earth.
JOURNEY: E – ENGAGE
NEXT STEP(S): Live: Last week, I asked you to write down the name of someone you would contact to begin or continue to disciple them. Did you do it? If we are to be a disciple-making church, we must get past good intentions. Disciples are not made by good intentions, they are made with intentionality. This week, make the best use of the time, and turn your intentions into action.