Friday, May 5, 2017

Imitate Session 4: April/May

Imitator Series

Why Imitate God?

Throughout the last few months we have been going through our series called Imitator, centered in Ephesians 5:1-2. In February we looked at the fact that we are called to be an Imitator of God. In March we saw how being an imitator of God means living a life of love. In April we talked about how Jesus is the perfect example of living a life of love. Yesterday we concluded our Imitator series by looking at why we should imitate God.

First, our imitation must be God honoring. Whenever we talk about things we ought to do or thing we ought not to do we experience tension. This tension is rooted in the "faith vs. works" dilemma. When we put too big of an emphasis on what we do we put too much emphasis on our self. When we put too much emphasis on faith we end up with a stagnant faith. It is both/and. When talking about imitating God we need to remember two things to keep us from over-emphasizing ourselves. First, Imitating God is not a means to righteousness. Our righteousness has already been secured because of what Christ has done. There is nothing we can do to earn it because Christ has freely given it to us. Second, Imitating God is not for the purpose of making ourselves look better or to impress other people. 1 Peter 2:9 says:
But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God's very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. (NLT version)
Peter tells his audience they are chosen, God has picked them to be in a relationship with. They are royal priests, they have access to God and can speak with him. They are a holy nation, set apart to be God's people/ All these things apply to those of us who confess Jesus as Lord today. Our chosenness is not dependent upon anything we do but putting our trust in Christ. But all these descriptors have a purpose. Our being chosen, our status as royal priests and a holy nation is so we can show others the goodness of God. We imitate God in order to show others the goodness of God. The purpose of our imitation is not to be made righteous or toe impress others but to show others the goodness of God.

Second, our imitation must be people-focused. Jesus' life was people-focused, as shown in Matthew 9:35-38,
Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. He said to his disciples, "The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields."
Leading up to this passage Jesus has gone on a healing rampage. In chapter 8 he healed a man with leprosy, he healed Peter's mother-in-law, and many demon-possessed people. In chapter 9 he heals a paralyzed man, a woman who has been bleeding for seven years, he raises a girl from the dead, and he heals two blind men. Jesus has compassion upon suffering people and moves to meet their needs. He then calls his disciples to do likewise, to be harvesters. God gives us gifts, spiritual and material, which are meant to be focused on other people. If Jesus was people-focused and we are called to imitate God by following his example then we too must be people-focused.

Third, our imitation must draw others to Christ. Peter continues in his epistle by saying,
Dear friends, I warn you as "temporary residents and foreigners" to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world (1 Peter 2:11-12)
This is following the similar idea that we are citizens of heaven not of the world. We are more like tourists in the world. We engage in some parts of the culture but do not fully immerse ourselves in it because it is not our own culture. Imitating God can follow aspects of different cultures but can also go against the tides of other aspects of culture. By imitating God, living a life of love, we can be examples for other people. Just as Jesus was a tangible revelation of God for us, our imitation of God can be a tangible revelation for others. We can show others what a life that imitates God looks like and they may want to come alongside and imitate God as well.

Why do we imitate God? We imitate God because he has chosen us to be his people in order to bring honor and glory to him, to help meet the needs of suffering people, and to draw others into a loving relationship with God and with his church.

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