The second half of chapter 4 and first half of chapter 5 focus around the idea of Christian living or living as children of Light.
In this long section I believe the Holy Spirit through Paul’s writing wants us to understand that we are called to be Imitators of God.
32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. 1 Be imitators of God, therefore as dearly loved children and life a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.Ephesians 4:32-5:1
Let’s unpack this idea that is found in the passage. The rest of this study will be to understand the how we become Imitators of God.
17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.Ephesians 4:17-19
- Be Sensitive to God
Through the Bible there have been people who hardened their hearts to what God was saying or doing. The most memorable is Pharaoh in Exodus when the plagues came upon the land. Even when the plagues were making life terrible for the Egyptians God, “hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he did not listen to them.” Then we find Jesus asking the disciples “Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened?” Finally, Hebrews makes it clear that hardening your heart is the product of rebellion from God…
“Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness,Hebrews 3:7b-8
It is not always clear that the hardening of your heart can happen after coming to Christ, but it is very clear as Paul is writing to the church or those who have already come to Christ that we can choose to harden our hearts. It could also be a byproduct of rebellion toward Christ. We can loose our sensitivity toward the voice and moving of the Holy Spirit through choosing to close ourselves off through intentional or unintentional rebellion. Pharaoh closed his mind and heart to the understanding that it was Yahweh (the God of Israel) behind the devastation.
Be sensitive to the moving of the Holy Spirit and His voice will become louder and easier to understand. Unlike the Gentiles who aren’t able to hear because they have hardened their hearts.
- Take off the Old Self
The next thing that we find is important as we attempt to be Imitators of God is to talk off the Old Self. When we become followers of Jesus or accept Him as savior we are made new and we are given new life in Him, but we must also put away the old way of living.
22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.Ephesians 4:22-23
Paul writes a lot about the evil people do and instructed the church and Christians to put off the old self. He lists many, many sins and things that are opposite to God. In order to be Imitators of God we must give up the old way of living and begin living “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
I believe the lists and lists of things can be summed up in two main ways of the old self. They are…
Idolatry is a miss directed love and Disobedience is a miss directed authority.
This is why we have been called to put off the old self. The old self does not give full authority and love to Lord Jesus Christ. We can choose to pick up those idolatrous and disobedient ways. That is why it is so important that we daily choose to lay our selfish desires down and follow Christ.
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.Matthew 16:24
To be Imitators of God means to lay ourselves down and pick up the cross or “burden” and follow Jesus’ example of love and truth. This leads to the last way we can become imitators of God.
- Put on the New Self
24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.Ephesians 4:24
As he writes the things we should not do as we take off the old self he explains what it means to put on the new self. When we come to Jesus Christ we have the ability to put on the new self which can be summed up with the idea that is the conclusion of this section…
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.Ephesians 5:15-20
Being filled with the Spirit or the Holy Spirit. When we put off the old self we must fill the emptiness that is created. This is to be full of the Spirit. When we put off the old self with its idolotry and disobedience and become sensitive to the voice of the Lord we will be filled with the Holy Spirit in such a way that we will be able to live “speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and Songs of the Spirit.”
In order to be an imitator of God we must be so full of the Spirit that it is evident to those around us we are different. In the same way it is noticeable if we are drunk with wine the Holy Spirit will influence our actions, speech, and decisions.
The old self is easy to put back on or try to hide under the new self. This can often feel like a safety blanket or armor we hope will protect us; just in case. But the old self does not allow us to be imitators of God. It creates a disconnect, because our love and authority is not fully in the hands of Christ. Do not put it back on, because you are called to be different.
Not as the Gentiles – who are hardened and not part of the Family
Not as one’s in darkness – who don’t know or can’t see the problem
Not as unwise or foolish – who have chosen not to follow God
But live as people who are sensitive to the Holy Spirit understanding what He is saying and seeking love, forgiveness, and to obey God’s voice; then you will be imitators of God.
God Bless and BeTHELIGHT