Sermon: Following God

 

1 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; 2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. 3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; 4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. 

 

5 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. 7 Be not ye therefore partakers with them.

 

INTRODUCTION

 

“Walk a Little slower, Daddy.” said a little child so small.

I’m following in your footsteps and I don’t want to fall.

 

Sometimes your steps are very fast, sometimes they’re hard to see;

So walk a little slower Daddy, for you are leading me.

 

Someday when I’m all grown up, You’re what I want to be.

Then I will have a little child who’ll want to follow me.

 

And I would want to lead just right, and know that I was true;

So, walk a little slower, Daddy, for I must follow you!!

 

– Bobbie Norman

 

Children, especially young children, often copy their fathers. When I first got glasses in the 5th grade, I wanted the same horn-rimmed wire frame glasses that my Dad had. I wore the same padded vest that he wore and so on.

 

As Christians, we should do the same with our Heavenly Father. Paul writes:

 

Ephesians 5:1 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; 

 

“followers” (μιμηταὶ, μιμητής, NNPM). The word here is μιμητής (mimetes), which is where we get our English word mimic. So “followers” means to follow someone in the sense of imitating them. We follow God by imitating him, by acting like him.

 

We are to follow him “as dear children;” The reason that we should imitate God is that we are his children (when we have received Christ as our Savior), and children imitate their parents.

 

In what way are we supposed to imitate God? It’s impossible to be like God in every way, for one thing, we are not all-powerful or all-knowing. However, the Bible doesn’t expect us to imitate God fully, but in specific ways. 

 

For example, Jesus said, “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:36). And Paul said at the end of chapter four, “…forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).

 

And here, in Ephesians 5:2 we have another specific way we are to imitate God. We are to be…


I. FOLLOWING GOD BY WALKING IN LOVE

 

Ephesians 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. 

 

“And walk in love,”—walking here refers to the way we live our lives. We are supposed to live lives of love. How? It says here “as Christ also hath loved us.”

 

How did Christ love us? Again we read that he “hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour.” Christ gave himself as a sacrifice and an offering to God for us. Why? 

 

Because, back in Genesis chapter three, the entire human race fell into sin when Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command not to eat of the tree in the middle of Eden. Since then, every person has been born—no, even conceived—in sin. 

 

Well, why does there need to be a sacrifice for our sin? Because every sin we commit is a sin against the perfectly holy God, and because they are, the penalty for our sins is death (Romans 6:23). 

 

In order for God to remain holy and just, our sin must be punished, just as if you had murdered someone else, you would have to face judgment. But God loves us and so he sent his Son Jesus to die for our sins.

 

8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

 

Now, if you receive God’s gift of Christ by placing your trust completely in him, you will not endure God’s righteous wrath but will instead live eternally with him. 

 

Because Christ’s sacrifice satisfied God’s holy justice and enabled him to demonstrate his love to humanity, it was a “sweet-smelling savour” to him.

 

Christ loved us and so gave of himself as a sacrifice—when we love one another in a self-giving way, that is also sweet-smelling to God.  Costly, sacrificial love is to characterize our relationships with one another. 

 

Whatever another Christian does to you, remember this, Christ has already paid the penalty for their sin—enabling you to walk in love toward that other Christian. Peter wrote:

 

8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)

 

And if a unbeliever does something wicked to you, remember that, despite the knowledge that billions would reject him, Christ still went to the cross and died there for their souls should they trust in him. So we should follow him in this kind of sacrificial love even for those who don’t love Christ.

 

We are to be following God by walking in love and we are to be…

 

II. FOLLOWING GOD BY AVOIDING SIN

 

The rest of our passage concerns how we are to be avoiding sin and why, first we see…

 

A. Our Responsibility to Avoid Sin

 

1. Sins of Sexual Immorality

 

Ephesians 5:3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; 

 

Why does Paul focus on sexual sins here? Because sexual sins were common in his day, as they are in our day. 

 

Sexual sins are some of the most damaging sins that people can do to one another, causing, among other problems, emotional scars and unwanted pregnancies leading to unwanted children or to abortions.

 

The Bible uses three words to describe these sins:

 

1) “fornication” (πορνεία, πορνεία, NNSF) refers to all kinds of sexual immortality, from prostitution to adultery and everything in-between. Simply put, it’s any sexual behavior outside marriage.

 

God invented love, but Satan took that wonderful thing and perverted it. Everyone claims to want love, but often it is the emotional, lustful sexual love that they want. That isn’t genuine love, especially when it leads to all sorts of “fornication” and sexual immorality. 

 

2) Losing control in regards to “fornication” leads to “uncleanness.” The Greek word for “uncleanness” has to do with anything that is unclean or filthy. It refers to immoral thoughts, passions, and ideas. 

 

In the New Testament, Jesus uses this word to refer to a tomb full of dead men’s bones (Matthew 23:27). Most of the other times in the New Testament, it’s used in association with sexual sin, indicating that sexual sin especially makes one unclean.

 

3) “Fornication” leads to “uncleanness,” and both are forms of the next word that Paul uses, “covetousness,” or greediness. One can easily see how fornication is being greedy for a sexual relationship with someone and not caring what God has said about marriage and not often not caring about the other person.

 

These three immoral activities are to “not be once named among you, as becometh saints;” — All Christians are “saints,” or “holy ones.” Of course, we are not yet practically holy, but we are “positionally” holy. That means that, because we are in Christ, and Christ is sinless, God sees us as holy because we are standing in the exact same position as Christ.

 

Since we are holy ones in God’s eyes, how ought we to behave? Should fornication, uncleanness, and greed be allowed in our hearts? Of course not, it should “not be once named among you” because it does not “becometh” us as saints—it is not fitting for a saint to do. 

 

And don’t you dare say, “I ain’t no saint,” as if you can opt out—the Bible says that every Christian is a saint, so act like it! 

 

What if you have done these things, even as a Christian? You need to repent of them. Repenting is more than being sorry, it’s changing your mind completely about the sin. It’s changing course completely.

 

I was reading a booklet on weight-loss and it emphasized that what was best for losing weight was not a diet, but a change in life-style. Instead of counting calories, change to eating good food and stop eating the bad food as much as you can.

 

Being sorry for a sin is like going on a diet. You feel bad about your weight for a while and you try to be good about it, but you really haven’t changed the way you live and eat. Repentance is truly being convinced that your life needs to be different and you make permanent changes.

 

If you are in a sexual relationship that is unbiblical, you can’t just say, “We need to be good for awhile”—a sexual diet. You need to either end the relationship or make it a biblical relationship by getting married (and that’s only if this is truly the kind of person God wants you to marry, but that’s another sermon).

 

It’s not just sins of sexuality we are to avoid as saints striving to be like God, we are also to avoid…

 

2. Sins Of Speech

 

Ephesians 5:4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. 

 

As in the last verse, we have three words to describe the kind of sins we are not to do.

 

1) The word “filthiness” (αἰσχρότης, αἰσχρότης, NNSF) makes reference to our speech; it can mean obscenity or shameful language. The same root word is used over in Colossians 3:8 where we are told to get rid of “filthy communication out of your mouth.” If you wouldn’t say it in front of Jesus, then you shouldn’t say it in front of anyone.

 

2) “foolish talking” (μωρολογία, μωρολογία, NNSF) is the kind of foolish or stupid speech that doesn’t make any sense or doesn’t profit anyone. It comes from the Greek word μωρος, where we get the word “moron” from. It’s been connected with the speech of a drunk person, like Otis from the Andy Griffith show.

 

Barney Fife: Andy, I’ve this one dead to rights! Otis was drunk. I even gave him a test. I drew a line on the sidewalk and told him to walk it. You know what he said?

Andy Taylor: What?

Barney Fife: He asked me what line. I’ve got this one right, Andy. Otis was drunk!

Andy Taylor: That right, Otis? Did you ask Deputy Fife what line?

Otis Campbell: Yeah; but I didn’t have my specs on and drunk or sober, I can’t see much without my specs.

Andy Taylor: Otis, three hours ago when Deputy Fife arrested you were you drunk?

Otis Campbell: I don’t know; I wasn’t wearin’ my glasses (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0053479/quotes).

 

But you don’t have to be drunk to be guilty of “foolish talking.” It’s whenever you are just “shooting your mouth off” and saying things that aren’t biblical, or logical, or nice.

 

2 The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: But the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness. (Proverbs 15:2)

 

3) “jesting” (εὐτραπελία, εὐτραπελία, NNSF) has to do with “off color” or dirty jokes, especially those that do with sexist topics, but racist jokes would also fit in here. Any speech that makes fun of someone in a derogatory or sexual way would be included.

 

All three of these terms have to do with a dirty mind expressing itself in filthy language. The sad thing is, that many Christians don’t even think twice before saying things that would indicate that they have a corrupt heart and mind.

 

We need to be aware of what Jesus says about our words:

 

36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. (Matthew 12:36–37)

 

Instead of the crude, stupid, and derogatory language of the world, Christians are to speak in a way that is a “giving of thanks”—Our speech as Christians is supposed to be thankful and praiseworthy. What does that mean?

 

He means that when we talk about sex, or other people, that it is done in a spirit of thanksgiving and praise that acknowledges everything and everyone is in some way a gift of God to us.

 

Practically speaking, it means that when you see other people as gifts of God, and as objects of the Lord’s concern and love, you won’t make a sexist or racist remark about them. 

 

This is especially true when you think about your fellow Christians: each one of us is blood-bought by Christ and are members of one body—so how could we even think evil things about them, much less say bad things?

 

Throw away the sins of sexual immorality and the sins of speech. Why are believers not supposed to act and speak this way?

 

B. Our Reasons For Avoiding Sin

 

First, it’s pretty obvious that a mouth that spews bad language, or someone who sleeps around, or who is greedy or impure is not someone who loves like God loves. If we are to follow God and be like him, we won’t do those kinds of things.

 

But another reason is that…

 

1. Sinners Don’t Have A Place In Heaven

 

Ephesians 5:5 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 

 

“no whoremonger [immoral person], nor unclean [impure] person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater,”—These are the same basic words that we saw in verse three. 

 

This sort of person is an “idolater” (εἰδωλολάτρης, εἰδωλολάτρης, NNSM), that is, someone who worships someone or something else other than the Lord God. 

 

Naturally, those people who don’t worship the Savior do not have “any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” In other words, they don’t go to Heaven…they go to Hell.

 

2. Do Sinning Christians Go To Heaven?

 

Does this mean that a Christian who says a bad word, or commits adultery, or some such thing has lost their salvation? No, the Bible doesn’t say that. 

 

But a person who is a Christian, a true Christian, will not have a life that is habitually characterized by such things. That’s what the apostle John meant when he wrote:

 

9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. (1 John 3:9–10)

 

Everyone sins. The question is whether or not your life is characterized by certain sins, and whether or not you are repentant after you sin. Does the basic pattern of your life reflect Jesus Christ?

 

CONCLUSION

 

Many people will try to tell you that it really doesn’t matter if you do those sins or not. They may say to you that culture has changed, and so we have to change along with it. So the next verse cautions us—

 

Ephesians 5:6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. 

 

Let no man deceive you with vain words:”—Vain words are empty words, they have no eternal value. Someone might convince you to participate in a sin because, “Life is too short to be stuck up on being old-fashioned. Enjoy yourself now.” 

 

Yet that will only last until yourself die, then what? Judgment: “the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.” You will discover too late that those things are empty and vain.

 

So when someone asks you to join in on a sin—to sleep with him or her, use filthy language or tell mean jokes, to be as the world is—what should you do?

 

Ephesians 5:7 Be not ye therefore partakers with them.

 

The word “partakers” (συμμέτοχοι, συμμέτοχος, ANPM) means “one who shares in a possession or a relationship” (Pillar, O’Brien). So Paul is saying that Christians should not share with unbelievers (or professing believers, for that matter) in their immortality.

 

Instead, we are partakers with Christ (Hebrews 2:14). As partakers with him, we are to follow the Father as he does. Let Christ be your guide, your support, and your Savior as you walk with him behind your Heavenly Father.

 

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