Walk in Love

Chapter 5 of Ephesians calls on Christians to “imitate” God. How can we, who are so un-Godlike, represent a King? In the first installment of our Walk in Wisdom series, we unpack the concept of loving as Christ through forgiveness.

Transcription

EASLEY: We have been looking at a walk of wisdom, what it means, how we acquire wisdom, and many facets of this manifold concept. We have looked at a number of different passages from Old to New Testament and this concludes a mini three part series that I have wanted to do from Ephesians Chapter 4 and 5. If you have a Bible I want you to open to Ephesians Chapter 5 as we conclude this survey of the way Paul uses the little phrase “walk.” We’re to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which we’ve been called, he began in Chapter 4. We represent a King; we no longer represent just self interest, or just our identity in what we do, or our family, or how many children we have. We represent the King. Five times he’ll use that little phrase like a paragraph indention, like a marker, or like a highlighter in the text. Walk in a certain way. Today we’ll look at the last three, technically two, what it means to walk in wisdom, to walk in love, as well as to walk in the light, and then he’ll summarize and conclude those with walking in wisdom.

If you have your Bible, open to Ephesians Chapter 5:1: Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as also Christ loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. First of all to walk in love. What does it mean to walk in love? First he says to be imitators. This is the only place in the Bible it says to imitate God. Sometimes Paul says, “Be imitators of me.” Sometimes we are to be like God. Be holy for He is holy but this is the only account it says to imitate God. Now of course, we’re not Godlike so what does he mean? Context covers a multitude of interpretational sins and if you back up to Chapter 4, verse 32, you’ll see the context has to do with forgiving one another. To love God the way He wants us to walk in love, is to be forgiving of other people. What an expression that we imitate God by forgiving one another just as He forgave us. When you were little, or maybe you remember, or if you have children maybe you’ve witnessed it yourself, mimicking, mimikos (Greek interpretation of English word) your parents. I remember standing on a stool in the bathroom with my dad. He was shaving with a real razor and I was shaving with shaving cream and a fake razor. Little girls who watch mom put makeup on at some point stand on a stool or a chair and they want to put their makeup on and be like mom. They want to dress like you and dress like me. That doesn’t last long, but for a while they want to imitate us and soon after they want nothing to do with us. We’re to imitate God as beloved children. Like a child would imitate his dad or his mom at an early, we’re to imitate God by forgiving other people. Martin Lloyd Jones says that here, “we come to what is perhaps Paul’s supreme argument, to the highest level of all in doctrine and practice, to the ultimate ideal,” is to imitate God by forgiving other people.

This isn’t a generic or subjective “what would Jesus do” aspect. This pertains directly to if we walk in love the way Paul describes it here, we forgive those who offended us, we forgive others who have sinned against us. Walk in love just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us. That is the way Paul writes it, that He loved you and gave Himself up for us. He identifies Himself as one needing Christ sacrifice. The greatest example the church has given, the greatest example the world has given, no greater sacrifice than this. No greater love than this than you lay your life down for someone else. Human life laid down might save one or two people at best, maybe a few, but Christ life laid down on our behalf instead of us in our place saves all who trust, who by faith believe in Him. Christ is the only offering that is pleasing to God. Think of the hundreds of thousands of bulls, and goats, and birds, and animals that were bled and sectioned and sacrificed, and the ashes taken to an unclean place, and the hide dealt with in certain ways by the Levitical Priest through Israel, and through history before the temple was destroyed. None of it accomplished anything. It was a shadow of what would come. We commemorated that a few minutes ago by a piece of bread and a little bit of juice, the broken body, the blood shed to pay for your sins and mine. No greater love. Paul uses the same language in Ephesians 5:25, just a few verses ahead. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her. I’ve said it many times; it bears repeating. If husbands would get just this piece of what it means to be a Godly husband, we would go along way in our marriages. Christ did not blame the church; He did not shake His fist  at the church, metaphorically. He didn’t complain to God the Father, “Why do I have to die for these ingrates?” He said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they’re doing.” He so loved His Father; He obeyed His Father to the point of death, to die for the likes of you and me. I never tire of hearing if you were the only human on the planet, he would have died for you. That’s how great His love is. So now Paul tells us, I’m to love my wife as Christ loved the church. Easier said than done. I’m not to blame her, criticize her, complain about her; I’m to sacrificially love her and to forgive her.

We overstate and overemphasize and sometimes improperly teach submission. Submission is not a role; submission is a response, but we over inflate the subject when the command paramount is love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. I had a mentor for thirty years, Dr. Howard Hendricks, and he told us again, and again, and again, “Be a student of your wives. Be a student of your wives.” And I’ve been studying Cindy ever since. Just when I think I’ve got her figured out, she changes. She used to like this, now she hates that. She used to want to do this, now she doesn’t. She used to like to eat at these restaurants, now she can’t stand those restaurants. It’s a moving target. (Laughter). I work so hard at studying her. Just when I think I’ve got her figured out, she changes and I say, “Honey, you’re driving me crazy.” She says, “Well, at least you’re not bored.” What great counsel! Study your wife all of your life. Be a student of your spouse because you will never figure her out. We’re  not suppose to criticize her, we’re supposed to encourage her; we’re not supposed to pick at her, we’re to nourish and cherish her as we would our own bodies. If husbands would grab that concept by Christ’s Spirit, we would go along way. If you criticize your wife, she will not change. If you encourage her, she may change. It all starts and stops with you, not with what she is not doing. John 10:17, and 18: For this reason the Father loves me, because I laid down my life so that I may take it up again,” Jesus speaking. No one has taken it away from me. I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and authority to take it up again. This command I receive from My Father. Christ says, “I love my Father so much I willingly obey, dying for you.” To walk in love means that we are a forgiving people. To walk in love means that we are ready to forgive. We don’t harbor grudges. We don’t nurse a wound. We don’t bring up old stuff. We choose to forget. Forgiveness is choosing not to bring it up again. It’s always there. It will never go away, but you make the choice not to rehearse it, to regurgitate it, to recycle it again and again at the proper time. Don’t miss the contrast.

Look at Ephesians 4:19, a few verses back. The Gentiles, the unbelievers, have given themselves over to sensuality. It’s a lateral move. They’ve given their lives over to sensuality, every kind of practice of impurity. But in Ephesians 5:2, Christ gave Himself up for us. The world gives itself over to sin, Christ gives Himself up for us. Verse 3, but do not let immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving thanks. Immorality is the word pornea, (Greek word transliterated for English word). Pornography we bring into English. It’s a broad word in Greek. It means any sexual activity outside the confines of a heterosexual monogamous marriage. Any sexual, any sexual activity outside the boundaries of a heterosexual monogamous marriage. Further, he likens them to impurity and greed. Impurity is the word refuse and here he’s attaching it to the idea of imorality. It is a morally corrupt relationship and greed of course, the insatiability. It seems funny he would add greed to the list immorality,impurity, and greed, but they all fit together because immoral sins are insatiable sins. That’s why we don’t have one affair and stop. We don’t look at pornography once and quit. We don’t have an emotional affair with the person at work and stop because sin is insatiable. That’s the greedy part of it, but immorality, or impurity, or greed must not even be named among you. Remember in Ephesus, the audience to which Paul’s writing had the god Artemis or Diana, depending on Greek mythology or the language of the way Rome referred to it; Artemis and Diana are the same goddess. One of the ways you worship this goddess was through immoral activity. Think about the sanction of that today. Join this church and be as immoral as you want and we’ll call that worshipping God. That’s how far they had gotten to. That’s the audience to whom he’s speaking and it sure seems to apply today. We’ve turned all of our vices and immoral things to personal rights, our identity, the way we’re made, our choice. We’ve made personal rights little gods. We’ve made our identity into a lie and we’ve said we have a propensity, or a proclivity, or are born with a predisposition. We’ve sanctified sin. Any sexual activity outside the boundary of a heterosexual monogamous marriage is immoral, impure, and wrong in God’s standards. Do not let the world teach you theology. Do not change your mind because the world has lost its mind. When the world calls evil good and good evil; you know you’re in good company if you’re calling evil evil. It’s hard today. Bob Deffinbaugh writes, If our society has taught us that immorality is making love, the Bible exposes this as a lie. Immorality is never the expression of love. It is an expression of lust. Immorality is not the work of the Spirit, but the fruit of the flesh. Immorality is not to be practiced by the saints. It is not to be tolerated by saints either. Love is defined in terms of sacrifice and to emulate that love which the Lord Jesus demonstrated in sacrificing for sinners at Calvary. Let us see from this text a clearer grasp of what Christian love is about. It is not about self gratification. It is about self sacrifice to the glory of God. Why does this matter? Look at verse 5. It shouldn’t be even named among the saints. It’s not even proper for you to talk about these things. A name is an identity. Our culture tries to change all the rules and they’ve done a very good job at that because their blind. Oh, it’s so hard for you to hear that and for me to say it. Don’t let the world teach you theology. Don’t let the culture and pseudoscience tell you it’s true, when it’s a lie. Don’t trust the world over his Word. This is the only thing that has authority, not Mock Science, not PhO science, not the latest research, but His Word. You either trust your life and salvation to the Christ who gives you life and trust Him at His Word, or you parse it to the way you want it and then you’ve made God in your image. It’s hard to say, maybe hard to hear, but it’s true and it’s very unpopular.

To be named is to have an identity with something. When our children were little, I browbeat them continually, “Easley’s don’t lie,” I’m trying to train little children to be truthful and you did the same thing I did if you’re a parent. When they were young and they lied, smoking gun DNA videotape, eye witness evidence and they lie and look you in the eye. Then you say the same thing I said, “If you will tell me the truth now, the punishment, the discipline, will be lighter. If you persist in the lie, it’s going to get worse.” Right? We do the same manipulation, brainwashing attempts, right? We try to coax them to tell the truth. We train them as best we can, but one day they stand on their own two feet before God. I don’t know when that day occurs; I just know it does occur. I have browbeaten loving kindness into my children, “Easley’s don’t lie.” Easley’s tell the truth. Your word is your bond. Your word means everything. Own your mistakes. Be courageous and say I was wrong. Own it when you lie and it will always go easier. Lie and lie and lie and coverup and it will be harder and no one will trust you and you will have a horrible reputation as an Easley. I long for you to have a reputation that when an Easley says something he or she is a truthful person. Priceless!  More importantly, we’re called by His name. You’re not just representing Fellowship, you represent your Saviour. It’s not even to be identified, not even to be named among you, Paul says. Notice he calls them saints, depending on your background like mine saints were a little different. Saints in the Bible are all alive;they’re called ones; they’re out of the world; they’re Ecclesia, the church;the word is agios.(Greek interpretation for English word). They’re a called one who’s a saint. They’re set apart by Christ and so  therefore we are saints. You can go home today and say, “I’m Saint Stephen. I’m Saint Joseph. I’m Saint Omar. I’m Saint Sally. I’m Saint Bubba.” (Laughter). We have a Bubba here. Saint Bubba. It’s a good thing to be a saint. You are a called out one.

It’s not just the obvious sins. Look! Filthiness, silly talk, coarse jesting. These are not fitting. Again, we’re so cool ,and edgy, and happening, and with it because we can tell coarse stories and jest and be filthy in our language and somehow sanctify it. I have not watched it, nor do I ever intend to. I have read enough about it and interestingly, have had many Christians tell me it’s the best television show on: Modern Family. All I know is what I’ve read and just what I’ve read will keep me from watching it. Call me a prude. I actualize my lust and sin by watching news and politics. You might actualize yours by watching reality television and Modern Family. Why in the world do you let twenty year old screenwriters who hate God tell you how to think about a family? Why would you let a twenty something year old screenwriter who hates you-Christian- tell you how to define your life? Not even to be named among us. Now we’re not to be Puritanical second and third separation people. We’re in the world, not of the world and that’s the constant tension for walking the Christian life among a pagan world. I said as we began this three part on Ephesians that this is changing your mindset. This is not a system of dos and don’ts. You will fail and you will also lay those burdens on other people. “They don’t do what I do, therefore they’re not growing Christians. That’s insidious. We have to change our mindset. The moment you trusted Christ, His Spirit indwelt you permanently and His job is to transform us into what we’re not and it takes time and cooperation, and pain, and years. The growth pattern is not like this, it’s like this, and God willing it’s taking a trajectory where we’re becoming a little more like Jesus.

Does not our struggle begin with our thinking and then our speech long before our actions? No filthiness or silly talk. This is so puritanical, Michael. This is so victorian. This is so prudish. This is so old. I will stake my claim on His Word. The antidote is very interesting, But rather giving thanks. Rather than all this list that he’s just enumerated, giving thanks. First day of this, I’m scratching my head thinking, Paul, this is too easy. But see what he’s accomplished: the self gratifying, self justifying, self ingratiating, “I can do what I want in my identity,” “I can have sex with anyone, anytime, anyplace, any number of people because this is what I want to do,” verses giving thanks. Thanks is an acknowledgement that I deserve nothing and I’m thanking someone else for everything. A person who has a thankful heart is a person who appreciates getting something they did not deserve. You were adopted as was I, a freight train going to hell, brands from a fire, and we were chosen, a throw away people, chosen and adopted, for no good reason of our accomplishments, but only His grace and love and we’ve been given a new name. We should be the most thankful people on the planet. God’s design for intimacy was between a man and a wife, heterosexual monogamous. It’s a beautiful, holy, wonderful, mind bending, spiritual communication. Everything else is a perversion from “the liar.” You won’t hear that anywhere else, I dare say.

Verse 5, For you know this with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of heaven of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you. Look at that. Don’t be deceived, men and women by empty words. That’s our world folks. For because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Verses 3-6 teaches the believers aren’t to be deceived by the worldview of things. Have no part in what we’re about. I said it a thousand times. I’ll say it a thousand times. If I drop dead at my last sermon of preaching, the last phrase I want out of my mouth is, “Don’t let the world teach you theology.” Do not let the world tell you how to view your God. So we walk in a manner worthy of the calling. You’ve been called by a King with which you’ve been called. Here Paul tells us to walk in love.

Now he’s going to tell us to walk in light. Look at verse 7. Therefore do not be partakers with them; that is the world, the sons of disobedience. For you were formerly darkness. Notice he doesn’t say in darkness, or in light. You were formerly darkness, but now you are LIght in the Lord; walk as children of Light. There’s your identity; there’s your name. (For the fruit of Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.

Not only do we not join them, we expose them. Call them what they are. For it is disgraceful even to speak of such things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. For this reason,it says, Awake sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you.” Number one: walk in love. Number two: walk in light.

Notice Bible students: Notice verse 7 and verse 11. Verse 7, Do not be partakers. Verse 11, Do not participate. These are like paragraph indentions that are highlighted, or underlined in the outline if you will; it’s the way Paul is thinking. Don’t be partakers and don’t participate. Partakers really means to throw your lot in with someone. The word participate is extraordinarily interesting. Some of us grew up in churches that had a Koinonia group. You have heard the word Koinonia; it means Fellowship Group. Some were called Grace Groups, Agape Groups. The idea of Koinonia was a fellowship, or literally it’s a sharing or an alliance so when the first church pooled their resources they were kicked out of the synagogue; they’re pooling their resources to help one another; sharing all things in common, we read in Acts. That was a Koinonia. You have a need. I have some supplies. We help each other. That’s Koinonia. But here we have a negative in front of the word Koinonia. Don’t even be connected to them. Don’t participate with them. Don’t practice what they do.

When I came to Christ, I shared before that I came out of a drug using, licentious, junior high student lifestyle, and my coming to Christ was dramatic. It was significant. When I came to Christ, I did not associate with those friends for very long because apparently influences is this leturous thing, this browbeating you into doing something; you know, they’re your friends. It’s what you’ve always done and all of a sudden you realize I can’t do what I used to do with that pier, but God in His great kindness gave me some Christian friends. The first Christian guy I ever met was a backpacking, climbing, mountaineer. His handle was “Mountaingoat.” The guy climbed everything faster than anybody. He was one of the most wiry, ectomorphic guys that could do everything bigger, better, and stronger than me and outweighed me by double. Always irritated me. He was a better athlete in every way, shape, or form. I went to college and roomed with him and some other Christian guys and they loved me. They put up with my nonsense. They corrected me when my mouth went off and Denny would say, “Michael, you don’t need to talk that way.” That’s all he had to say. We had fun and we played practical jokes on each other; we teased each other relentlessly. We weren’t a bunch of Bible nerds reading our Bible four hours a day. We had a ton of fun together, but God took me from that licentious, immoral, drug culture and put me in a context of other guys that loved God. We read books together and studied the Bible together, went camping, and backpacking, and God used those guys to save me from a lifestyle that I had come out of. God turned the light on in my life and I lived in shame and guilt for three years of all that I had done before I knew Christ. It haunted me! As I shared before, if I think about it too much I can go to a dark place very quickly. But He saved me from it!

We rented a bunch of apartments and farmhouses during my college years. One in particular was way down this unimproved road in Nacogdoches, Texas, deep East Texas, and it was a cool house; it was in a creek bottom, which had moved over the years far away from the property.  It was surrounded by giant pine trees and hundred plus year old hardwoods. There were no streetlights and it was a good quarter mile plus to the nearest streetlight. I left early in the morning and came home late at night and when I came home it was pitch black out. I mean you drive on this unimproved road; you route ended woods in East Texas. I pulled my car up and shined my headlights at the door and then turned my headlights off. I waited for my eyes to dilate because I had to walk to the door in the dark. We didn’t put outside lights on the house because it attracted bugs this big from a half mile away. In the country you don’t put lights on your house and so you navigate your way. I walked in the house and every night it was the same experience. I walked in through this little breezeway unlocked the kitchen door, turned on the light and cockroaches ran everywhere. This is East Texas,baby! That’s life! They’re carrying off canned goods, (Laughter). small appliances, drinking the rat bate. They don’t care. They’re having a party and you cannot get rid of them in an old farmhouse. It’s just the way of life. It was always a visual reminder to me; my sin was exposed. I mean you walk in the light and you see it. Alexander White, I will have to paraphrase it. The goal is not to not sin; the goal is to walk as close to Christ as you possibly can because as you walk close to Him, His light reveals the sin in your life and He’s the only One who can help you deal with it. Walk close to Christ. The parallel for all of us is evident when we are not walking with Christ we sin so easily. We make excuses for our behavior so quickly. We blow foam over all that we do and sanctify that it’s no big deal. Other people are doing worse things than me, but when you’re walking close with Christ in His Word, controlled by His Spirit, in community with His people, it’s pretty hard to live in sin. It’s not impossible, but pretty hard. You can live a lie, but the goal is not to stop sinning. We’ll all fail. The goal is to walk so closely to Christ that we see our sin and we know He loves us and died for that and He wants to help us be transformed from what we were into what we will become. Walking in light.

Finally, therefore be careful how you walk, vs 15, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks, There it is again, giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father. Walk in love. Walk in light.

In the summary, I think of his five walks. Walk wisely. Don’t walk unwise like the world. Walk wisely. One point I want to make and then some observations. Chapter 5:18, in my estimation is one of the most important verses on the role of the Holy Spirit. We poorly understand the Spirit’s work in our lives and I love the way Paul says so much in one verse. He says “Don’t be drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, rather be filled with the Spirit. What’s he saying? Don’t take an external substance and drink to excess where that now controls you. Don’t be drunk with wine, that’s dissipation. So we see a person whose mild mannered and quiet and then becomes loud and boisterous and fighting oriented when they’re drunk; they’re out of control when they’re drunk. An external substance, which they have consumed to access and that now controls them. But rather be filled, and this is not quantitative filling, you already have the Spirit living in you. This is controlling. Let the Spirit who lives in you. Rather be controlled by Him. Don’t take an external substance; wine. He’s using it as an illustration. Don’t let that control you. Use the internal person of God’s Spirit to control you. Be controlled by Christ’s Spirit. Mindset, men and women. Mindset. We’ve got to change our mind. It’s not merely do’s and don’ts. Do’s and don’ts might get us started We need to get up, spend time in the Word. We need to pray. We need to hang out with other believers. Walk in the same direction. We need iron sharpening iron. Those are good things, but it’s a mindset, not a behavioral modification life. If it was a behavior modification of life, all the type A’s who are high discipline would be the best Christians. It doesn’t work that way. Isn’t it good that it doesn’t work that way?

About Michael Easley

Michael is husband to one, dad to four, pastor to Fellowship Bible Church, and host of Michael Easley inContext.

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