In His Image

In His Image

Back to Slave to Child Series


Slave to Child: In His Image

Me

At first it’s the cutest thing you’ve ever seen: You say “Momma” and your little girl says “Momma”, you cover your face and say “Peek-a-boo!”, your baby boy covers his face and giggles.

After awhile the cuteness begins to blossom into astonishment as your kids mimic the way you talk on your cell phone, put your hands on your hips when you’re frustrated, and if your kid is anything like mine, they’ll learn to point their finger back at you and say “No!”

By two or three years old though, the astonishment turns into fear as you drop a dish on the floor and yell “Oh shoot!”—or something like that and the miniature version of yourself begins shouting “Oh shoot, oh shoot, oh shoot!” That last one may or may not be based on a true story.

We

Of course there is the other side of the equation. When Jess and I say lets pray, Jenness folds her hands and bows her head. The other day she burped and said “Excuse me” which I never remember trying to teach her to do. And when she does something she thinks is wrong, she slowly looks up, hugs my leg and says “Sorry”

Today we continue our series Slave to Child by exploring this theme of imitation—this concept exhibited in nature whereby we have the capacity to shape the trajectory of our children through the way we live our lives. Actually, even more than that—we have the ability to shape the trajectory of anyone we have a committed relationship with. Whether you are a mother with a son, a husband with a wife, a woman with a best friend, or a boss with an employee—We all have the opportunity to shape the trajectory of those we are in relationship with. Again, you could be a teacher with a student, a student with a lab partner, or an electrician with an apprentice—all of us have relationships which are a natural tool for shaping the outcome of others. Now here is where it all ties together.

Truth

Paul wrote a letter to a group of Christians in Ephesus needing to understand the basics of God’s grace and how that grace plays out in day to day life. He applies how grace changes everything from the way we talk, to our thoughts about sexuality, from how marriage ought to look to how parents ought to treat their kids. And the crown jewel of this section is Ephesians 5:1 which says

Therefore (with all this in mind) be imitators of God, as beloved children. Ephesians 5:1 ESV

Isn’t that what it comes down to? We ought to imitate our Heavenly Father as a beloved child imitates her parent. And in so doing, we are influencing those around us to imitate Him as they imitate us. It’s starting to sound confusing so lets set up a quick example.

This is God who is perfect.

This is you, imitating God—your speech, the way you forgive, the way you respond to those in need, the way you speak truth when it is hard. All of that.

These are the people who are influenced by you—daughters, sons, students, co-workers, employees, bosses, spouse. The relationship doesn’t have to be a top-down deal, it just has to be a respectful relationship. And I promise, as people see you more in line with the Father, they will want to experience that for themselves. This is one of the keys to leading people into a relationship with the Father, showing people who He is through the way you act. Sort of like what Jesus said in John 13:35: By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:35 ESV.

Remember Pastor Ron and I shared a chart which showed common misunderstandings of the Father? One of the points Pastor Ron made was that we tend to view God through the lens of others, especially our own fathers. But we also view God through the lens of all who claim to be Christians. If you grew up in a boring church with a boring pastor, you might just think God is boring. If you were in college and some students had picket signs that said “Turn or burn” you might think God is a mean bully. We gain a great deal of our God-lens through our relationships with people who claim to be Christians. And this is exactly why it is so important for you to hear Paul:

“…be imitators of God, as beloved children.”

But let’s be real—it’s hard. It is one thing to say God forgave me even though I don’t deserve it. But it is quite another thing to imitate Him, to forgive your co-worker when they don’t deserve it. We say “Thank You Heavenly Father for providing us with this meal.” But when we have an opportunity to provide a meal for others we think “I would invite them over for supper, but the house isn’t clean, I haven’t had a break all week, or it just isn’t convenient right now.” There is a discrepancy between the way the Father treats us and the way we treat others. And we hear Paul’s words echo in the back of our minds:

“…be imitators of God, as beloved children.”

You know, Peter struggled with the concept of imitating God. The Disciples are out walking and Jesus is trying to explain to them how we must become like little children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18). One of his points recorded in Matthew 18 is that we must forgive those who sin against us. That’s when Peter pipes in

“Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22 ESV

And Jesus has a story to go along:

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.

So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’

So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place.

Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:23-35 ESV

Remember the picture we looked at earlier of God, us, and others? This story has the same deal going on. There is the Master, the servant (representing you and I), and others. Though the servant was forgiven much from his Master, he did not imitate Him—did he? Instead he looked out for self and refused grace.

Perhaps you aren’t choking your co-workers, but are you withholding grace because they don’t deserve it? Isn’t that what your Father does to you? How are you responding when your spouse came home late again, or overspent again? And it isn’t that you become a pushover, the Master in the story certainly wasn’t, but along with truth and justice come grace and mercy.

“…be imitators of God, as beloved children.”

Application

I want you to walk away with something you can remember. A practical way of applying today’s message.

John 1:14 says …the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 ESV

So Jesus, the only Son from the Father, the perfect image and imitator of the Father (Colossians 1:15) comes full of graceandtruth—that is, undeserved favor and uncompromising truth.

If you want to begin on the journey of imitating God as a beloved child, you need to bring both grace and truth into every situation with every person. That’s what the Master did in the story, didn’t He? The truth was that the servant owed the Master money, but the grace was an undeserved opportunity to make things right. Unfortunately, the servant did not take the opportunity, but instead spoiled it. That may happen to you too. But you can bring grace and truth to every situation you encounter.

If your son is supposed to pick up his room but doesn’t—the truth is that he cannot stay the night at his friend’s house, the grace is that if he also cleans the bathroom he can go to his friend’s house tomorrow night.

Your co-worker belittles you. The truth should be spoken to this individual saying “I do not know if it is your intention, but I feel belittled when you speak to me.” The grace is “But I understand you may not be intentionally doing that.”

You see, truth without grace is cruel, “You’re going to hell and there is nothing you can do about it.” … but grace without truth is misleading “Nah, it’s all good. Everybody deserves to spend eternity with God in Heaven don’t they?”. God perfectly fuses these together and says though you deserve to experience the consequences of your rebellion and sin, I will sacrifice myself to a brutal death on your behalf so you have an opportunity to live forever with me in Heaven.

Response

Band, you can come up at this time. Church, each of you who have confessed with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believed in your heart He is raised from the dead (Romans 10:9), each of you who have received Him and believed in His name (John 1:12)—the Word of God says you have been given the right to become children of God. But with that right, comes responsibility. The responsibility of bearing His name and His image.

Has anyone in here ever been embarrassed by their kids at the store? Or has anyone in here ever embarrassed their parents at the store? The way we speak and act communicates to other people a lot about our parents. The same is true for you. What are you communicating to others about the Father?

In a few moments, the band is going to lead us in the song No Longer Slaves which we have sang throughout this series. There is one line which says Your blood flows through my veins, I encourage you to take that seriously. Let that truth sink in that you are His child, you are to imitate Him as a child does a parent, and that others see the Father through the way you live.

Please, stand and sing with me as we respond to God’s Word.

Benediction

Amen.

There is a little poem written by retired steel worker Samuel Saalwaechter called If You Were the Only Bible I thought might be a good challenge for us to close on today:

If you were the only Bible

Your neighbor ever read

Could they find their way to Heaven

By what you did or said?

 

If you were the only Bible

Your co-worker ever saw

Could they tell that you serve Jesus,

Or you followed [empty] Law?

 

If you were the only Bible

Your family ever heard

Could they repeat a Bible Verse

Or just some angry word?

 

If you were the only Bible

That your children were to read

Would they grow up to follow Christ,

As you planted the Seed?

 

If you were the only Bible

That the hurting heard you share

Would they know that you were genuine

And that you truly care?

 

If you were the only Bible

That your friend was to hear

Could they believe the gospel

Because you made it clear?

 

If you were the only Bible

The world should ever see

Would they know, that you were once a sinner

But now Christ has set you free?

As you leave, remember the prayer team up front if you would like someone to pray for you. Also, if you are feeling the need to take your next step in faith, indicate that on your Connection Card under connecting, growing, or serving. Drop your cards off at the doors as you exit.

Church, “…be imitators of God, as beloved children.” Go with God.


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