"After God's Likeness"
Ephesians 4:17-24, 5:2 - Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about Him and were taught in Him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. ... 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.
Looks like some in the church at Ephesus were struggling in their Christian walk. The apostle Paul here is speaking to those who have learned Christ, were taught the truth in Jesus to put off the old self, but who have, it seems, reverted to their former ways. It's an age-old story, isn't it? How many times do we seek to do the right thing only to fall back into sin? Paul knew this was true of the believers he instructed in the faith. Here, and elsewhere (see 1 Corinthians 15:58; Colossians 3:14-15; 1 Timothy 4:12), Paul encourages the faithful to live lives of love and service to God and one another, and to remain steadfast in their commitment to God.
Paul was well aware of the difficulties of putting the teachings of Christ into daily action. Yes, there will be times when people lie, but we are to be truthful. There will be days when the sun sets and our anger still burns hot, but we are to control it—lest the enemy make an even greater mess of things. Though we may want to speak harshly and tear down, we are to resist that urge and, instead, build up with our words, edifying and uplifting those around us (see Ephesians 4:25-29). If only we could remember—we are not who we were: the old self is dead; through faith in Christ we are new now, "created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness."
And as Paul says elsewhere, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17). And what smarter way to put this truth into action than to become "imitators of God, as beloved children." When we flounder and want to sin, Paul reminds us to focus on Christ and His cross. Jesus set the ultimate example for you and me, giving Himself up for us, "a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God," and then rising in resurrection victory.
So when temptations are strong—pray, resist, and look to Jesus and the life He lived—and ask for the Holy Spirit's help to become an imitator of God.
THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, fill us with Your Holy Spirit that we may all become more like Jesus. In His Name we pray. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Paul Schreiber.
1. How do you give up bad habits?
2. What's the hardest thing you have to do to be an imitator of God?
3. When it's hard to see yourself as a new creation in Christ, what do you do to remember this?