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Imitating God

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Imitating God

Imitating God

Ephesians 5:1

Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill

Its Ephesians 5:1, we’re starting a new chapter. It’s very short, and the sermon is very short! “Therefore be imitators of God as beloved children.” The old guy that did the horror movies, Hitchcock, he was faced with one of those method actresses, the method people used to always say you have to really feel it to act, and he said to her “this is a time for anger” and she said, “I can’t feel anger” and of course Hitchcock said “Fake it” which is of course the job of any actor or actress; to fake it.

But it is interesting that that is what this verse is saying! The Greek word is mimoymai; to mime or to mimic, and it means to imitate and it seems so strong. Mimic God as dear children. Adam Clarke (the theologian) puts it like this: “Be therefore followers of God (that’s the King James version). The beginning of this chapter is properly a continuation of the preceding one.” The preceding on is “be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you.” Clarke says it should continue. The chapter and verse division was added after the Bible was written, so the book should really read, “be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you, therefore be imitators of God as beloved children.” Clark says, “The beginning of this chapter is properly a continuation of the preceding which should have ended with the second verse of this. The word ‘memaytai’ which we translate as ‘followers’ signifies such as personate others, assuming their gate, mode of speech, ancient accent, carriage, etc., and it is from this Greek word that we have the word mimic.”

My wife and I often look at people with their dogs and we don’t know whether their dogs become like them or they become like their dogs! But certainly you look at a father and son and the son is walking exactly the same way as the father and children do that; they mimic someone they love and someone whom they respect.

“The word ‘memaytai’ which we translate ‘followers’ signifies such as personate others, assuming their gate” that’s the way they walk, “mode of speech, their accent,” the way they carry themselves, “it is from this Greek word that we have the word ‘mimic.’ Though this term is often used in a ludicrous sense yet here it is to be understood in a very solemn and proper sense. Let your whole conduct be like that of your Lord. Imitate him in all of your actions, words, spirit and inclinations. Imitate him as children do their beloved parents and remember that you stand in the relation of beloved children to him. It is natural for children to imitate their parents. It is their constant aim to learn of them and to copy them in all things. Whatever they see the parent do, whatever they hear them speak, that they endeavor to copy and imitate. Yes they go further; they insensibly copy the very tempers of their parents. If you therefore be children of God show this love to your heavenly Father and imitate all his moral perfections and acquire the mind that was in Christ Jesus.

I’ve told my wife at times that a fry (fry up meal) was always special when I was permitted by my Dad to take a piece of his soda bread. In Ireland we had soda farls and we cut them so they were like long fingers. Then you put a piece of bacon on that and then tomato sauce on the top and then another farl on top of that so it was a little sandwich. But when your Dad had made it and you got to eat part of his that was heaven! It was funny, two little Belfast boys having all that delight

eating what their Father made. That’s a bit what the spirit of this verse is. It was like a revelation to me when I say it’s a very cozy relationship that we have with our Father. It is. He’s a loving, gentle Father and he has us in his arms and it’s not at all “A God up there that I have to obey.” Or a God who has said this and this must be done. It’s a dear, loving Father who has me in his arms and we’re beloved children. We’re children who are loved and hugged by our Father and you want to be like him because it’s so nice to be in his arms.

That’s the spirit of the verse; mimic your Father as children who are much loved. What the verse is saying is just as you imitated your Dad and wanted to be like him and wanted to talk like him, wanted to eat like him, wanted to wear the same clothes that he wore, it’s like that, mimic your Father. It answers that whole issue “You mean we have to be perfect?” Well the verse does say that, be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. It is true that the emphasis there is on his love. Its be perfect in love just as your Father is perfect in love.

I always think of that and it really is a stunning thing when you reflect upon it. I always think of the remarkable sentiment that God himself had when he determined to make us and to make ‘nothing’ possible; he determined to make us, and then he determined to make it possible to have something that isn’t him, which is nothingness, but he made that possible. And he set it as a tree of life and as a tree of knowledge of good and evil and he made it possible for us to choose the one or the other even though the other had no future in it. He made it possible for us to choose nothingness, and this is where is gets way beyond our understanding; he made it possible for us to choose nothingness while we remained in him. He made it possible for us to take him into nothingness. Everything that we did we did in him and he committed himself to enduring that. It means that the person that was murdered yesterday in New York City, Jesus was in that person and Christ bore the unbearable pain so that that person could get through it as they died. He was also in the person who shot them, and that is his love.

I don’t know what you think of God, but it’s obvious that he never thought about himself. In the early days I thought he must think a lot of himself, but as you read the Bible and you reflect upon God you think, no, he never seemed to think of himself. It’s always God so loved the world, or God always did this for somebody or God gave that to somebody, you never think of him sitting there and preening himself and thinking of himself and worrying about what he was going to face. You never think of him as that. You never think of him as doing anything but thinking of everybody else. And of course that’s what makes it so hard when people say “love your neighbor as yourself, “ you think that’s the one thing God didn’t do; he didn’t love us as he loved himself. He loved us in place of himself, he never thought of himself. He seemed to be a public figure from the beginning of his existence, and we’re talking silly when we talk that kind of language, but it’s almost what it seems like. It seems like he never thought of himself, he was always kind of a public person. He was always in charge of all of us or in charge of the entire universe.

That’s actually part of what this word is saying, “Be imitators of God.” Be like God, don’t think about yourself. Don’t think about your life and what’s happening to you, always be thinking of other people. Be thinking of others, be like God and then reflect upon this; you can’t actually be anything else because we’re made in his image. We are most completely ourselves when we are like him. We are. There’s a little light that speaks inside us that says, “Oh no, you really like yourself.” You actually don’t like yourself and you actually don’t care about yourself. You’re made in his image and you actually care about him and others. Be that, be what you are; be imitators of God. People like my mother would drive me crazy, she would say, “Don’t think of that Ernest, think of others, think outside of yourself.” Actually there is a place for that. There is a

place for a good, solid kick of common sense and of turning your thoughts away from yourself to be like God.

Be somebody who lives all the time for others and for the outside things that you can do. Be imitators of God. Be a mimic of God. That’s the same thing as “Be holy as I am holy. Be like me, that’s the way I’ve made you, be that.” So there is a real place for shaking off the old coil of self and self-interest and preoccupation and self-introspection and self-concern and casting yourself out and saying the glorious way is to live preoccupied with God and with other people right up to the very end. So that at the very moment when you breath your last breath your first thought is of somebody else or of God and it doesn’t matter to you where you go. And suddenly you find yourself in his presence.

Let us pray.


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