August 9, 2015
Today’s scripture from Ephesians is one of the passages we used this Summer at Kirkwood. (Excuse me! Kirkwood-Brainerd!) The whole theme for this Summer was about “God: the Holy Spirit.” It was called “Power Up!” (Maybe you’ve seen one of our campers’ T-Shirts.)
So, throughout the week, we talked about the various ways the Holy Spirit gives us, or makes us feel, the power of God. You might think about these. And this is certainly not a complete list! The Spirit helps us to learn. As Jesus said, the Spirit “teaches us all things.” It “brings to life” – it “illuminates” – the scriptures. It helps us remember what we’ve learned. The Spirit helps us to hear God speaking to us. And that was a big thing for our campers. One of the most frequently asked questions that week was “How do we hear God? Is there an actual voice in our heads? Is it a feeling? What is it?” It’s hard to give an answer to that. Because it’s all of those things! And the Spirit helps us to determine all of that.
The Spirit also comforts us in times of trouble. It inspires us. (“in-spires us” – that’s what that word means!) The Spirit produces the “fruit of the Spirit” in our lives. We read about that in Galatians 5. “The fruit of the Spirit is, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Do you remember those?
So on Day 3, we talked about how the Holy Spirit helps us as we seek to be like Jesus. In our scripture for that day, which we read here this morning, we find these words. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” At camp, we also read from I Thessalonians 1:6 “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for… you received the word with joy, inspired by the Holy Spirit”
That’s what I want us to think about today. “Be imitators of God.” That’s a tall order, isn’t it? To imitate God? That may be the tallest of orders! And that’s one of those things that sounds good, but somewhere in the back of our minds, we don’t really think it’s possible, do we? So we just think about it. That’s all we do. We don’t really act on it. And when we don’t, we think to ourselves that “God’s grace is sufficient for all our ‘faults and shortcomings.’ So we’re covered!”
Think about that. Don’t we tend to look at things like this in that way? Something doesn’t really seem possible, so we think of it in the “theoretical?” Or, we take such impossible sounding tasks as this, and we use them as an excuse not to bother even trying. “Imitators of God? That’s impossible. So forget about it!”
Well, let me tell you. That’s an attitude that shouldn’t be in a Christian’s lexicon! In fact, that’s what our faith is about! We try, and we fail, and then we try again! Because it’s in God’s lexicon to help us try, to forgive us when we fail, and to help us to try again! That’s what God does! And in all that, it’s the Holy Spirit that’s important! It is the Holy Spirit that helps us! The Holy Spirit is what gives us the power to do what God calls us to do – no matter how hard or impossible it might seem!
So, we are called to be “Godly” people! We are called to be “Christ-like” people! “Imitators of God!” And we not might think God was serious about that, or that he wasn’t being “realistic.” Or we might think that’s simply “not in our nature” – and so we’ll just leave that to “someone else.” But if we do any of that, then we’re missing something very important and foundational to our faith! God has always called people to difficult tasks, and then given them to power to do them!
Along with that, let me remind you that God has always had standards. And they have always been the highest of standards! Just think about old Moses coming down from the mountain. “Well, people, look at it this way. I talked him down to ten. But he’s serious about them!” God is always serious about them!
My Bible – well actually my computer Bible – has a title for this section from Ephesians. It’s called “Rules for the New Life.” Hear these “rules” again. “Put away falsehood; speak the truth; manage your anger, and don’t let it become sin; do not steal; have no evil talk, bitterness, or wrath…” (Do you think maybe Paul, the good Pharisee, was thinking of Moses and his tablets right about then?)
Those are God’s standards for us. Those are his rules for living the new life. Those are some of the things he calls us to do and to be, as we seek to be his people. And he’s serious about them!
Maybe you remember the “God Speaks” billboards. Did you have them around here? They haven’t been around for a while. But they were black billboards with white lettering, and they were simple statements, supposedly from God. They said things like, “They’re not called ‘The Ten Suggestions!’ – God.” There was another I liked, that simply said, “Don’t make me come down there! – God.” And there was one that was similar to what I’m saying this morning. It said, “That ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ thing – I meant that! – God.”
Well, these are now the “rules for living the New Life.” And God meant them! And he wants us to follow them. He wants us to be his “Godly people.” He wants us to be imitators of him. And he gives us his Spirit to help us to have the power to do that! And of course, as you’ve heard me say many times, this is all about the choices we make. And the Spirit helps us with those choices.
So that’s the challenge. Think about what it means to be God’s people – his followers – as we’ve been saying this year. Now we are saying that we should be “imitators of God.” And that’s not easy! That is a “tall order!” And by the way, do I struggle with this? Yes! It’s something we must all struggle with all the time. But, when we think about it – and we should do so often – when we think about this, it is through God’s Spirit that we choose to be his people, and it is through his Spirit that we have the power to do that!
So, that’s the challenge. And it’s a good one! “Be imitators of God!”
Eternal God, creator of all things, you have called us to be your people, and you have told us how to live. Help us, by your Spirit, to have the power to be your people. Help us to seek, and to rely on, the strength and the power of your Holy Spirit, living within us. For, as your people, we pray in the name of your son, Jesus Christ, Amen.