August 12, 2018

Rev. Mark F. Bartels



Sermon Text; Ephesians 4:30 – 5:2


Our text today is taken from Ephesians, chapter four, verse thirty through chapter five, verse two.  This is in our Savior's name.


Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Get rid of every kind of bitterness, rage, anger, quarreling, and slander, along with every kind of malice.  Instead, be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God, in Christ, has forgiven us.

Therefore, be imitators of God as His dearly loved children.  And walk in love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself for us, as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.


These are your words, Heavenly Father.  Lead us in the way of truth.  Your Word is truth.



Every once in awhile someone says something so succinctly and so clearly that is it like, “Wow.  I wish I could take that home, and put it up on the wall of my house or put it in my wallet, so I can always think about that.”  Anyway, one day this guy who is known as St. Augustine made a statement.  It is really a statement that just makes you stop, and think, “I wonder if I should have that posted in my house somewhere, or in my office.” 

Now, just to give a little background.  St. Augustine was not always a Christian.  St. Augustine, in his late teens, and into his twenties, lived a pretty wild lifestyle.  He got into a group of guys who were really into talking about their sexual exploits, and all of that stuff.  He had a child out of wedlock.  And, he gave up Christianity. 

But, God in His mercy and grace, brought Augustine back to faith in Jesus as his Savior.  And, then Augustine trusted in Jesus, as his Savior very deeply.

Augustine lived in the 300s/400s A.D.  He has become known as one of the greatest, if not the greatest Christian thinkers, and writers of all time, other than, of course, the writers of The Bible.  The man was a genius, and he could say some very profound things.  He once said this simple, little, statement.  “The whole goal of a Christian's life should be...”  How would you fill that in?  He said,

“The whole goal of a Christian's life should be

to imitate Christ.” 

The whole goal of a Christian's life should be to imitate Christ.

Could you imagine how your family life would be revolutionized, if you could imitate Christ?  Can you imagine how things at work would be revolutionized, if you could imitate Christ?  Or, how things at school, or in the neighborhood would be revolutionized, if you could imitate Christ? 

So, he said,

“The whole goal of the life of a Christian should be

to imitate Christ.” 

About a thousand years later, there was a man by the name of Thomas A. Kempis who wrote a book that became the second best selling book in the world, only to The Bible, up until about a century ago.  The title of the book was, The Imitation of Christ.  Many people would buy this book, and ponder through it.  It was devotional thoughts on, “How can I, in my life, imitate Christ?” 

Our Bible passage today says,

“Therefore, be imitators of God,

as dearly loved children.” 

The Bible tells us to imitate God, to imitate Christ.  It gives us the motive, or the reason why we would want to imitate Christ.  It says,

“Therefore, be imitators of God,

as dearly loved children.”  

I am sure you all have seen a dad with his lawn mower mowing the lawn, and some little guy with a small, plastic, lawn mower about twenty steps behind Dad, pushing his toy lawn mower, imitating Dad.  When you see something like that, you think to yourself, “That little guy is copying his dad, because Dad has loved him enough that the little guy looks up to Dad, and says, in his little heart, 'I want to be like my dad.  Some day, I want to be like my dad.'”  So, Dad has loved him so much that the little guy looks up to him, and wants to be like him.  Our passage says,

“Therefore, be imitators of God

as dearly loved children.”

We are children of God.  He has redeemed us, through Christ.  He has forgiven all of our sins.  He loves us so completely, so unconditionally, so dearly, in Christ.  The motive in our heart is, “I want to be like Him.” 

So, let's look at what our passage says about imitating Christ.  You know, Jesus is perfect.  There is even a passage talking about Jesus.  Jesus wasn't just God.  He was a human being, as well.  God and Man in one person.  The Bible tells us Jesus received the Spirit without measure, the Holy Spirit, without measure.  So, the Holy Spirit was poured out on Jesus, as a human being. 

And, who is the Holy Spirit?  Well, He is the third person of the Triune God.  His goal is to make us holy.  But, the Holy Spirit did not need to make Jesus holy.  Can you imagine the Holy Spirit's heart, as He lived in, and through Jesus?  His goal is to make us holy.  And whatever Jesus did, wherever He went, as a little child, whenever He was with His parents, He was holy, and perfect.  He obeyed them.  Whenever He was with His friends, and whenever He was with His enemies, whatever He did, the Holy Spirit must have been filled with joy, as He saw, was with, and lived in Jesus, and worked through Jesus.

So, look at how our passage starts out.  It says,

“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God...” 

As we think about imitating our Savior, the Holy Spirit lives in us, as well.  It says,

“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,

with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

When you were baptized, the Holy Spirit, in mercy and grace, came into your heart, and He brought you to believe in Jesus, as your Savior. 

'A seal' is 'a sign of ownership', and it is 'a sign of security'.  You weren't sealed with wax.  You weren't sealed with a tattoo. 

You were sealed with the Holy Spirit. 

He came into your hearts, and He brought you to faith in Jesus, as your Savior.  This is a sign of ownership.  You belong to Him.  He loves you dearly.  He forgives your sins every day, for Christ's sake.  He is going to keep you in that faith, until you get to Heaven.  The Bible says,

“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God...”,

as you think about being an imitator of Christ.

What does that mean to “grieve the Holy Spirit of God”?  When I was going to college, at Bethany Lutheran College, and I was preparing to be a pastor, there was a professor there by the name of Rudy Honsey.  (He has since died, and gone to Heaven.)  Rudy Honsey was like the ultimate professor.  Rudy Honsey loved his Savior.  He loved the Word of God.  He was a faithful, Christian man.  He loved his students.  He loved the subject he taught, which happened to be Hebrew. 

He wanted his students in his class to know Hebrew so well that they could know The Bible better, and better, so they could be better pastors, better preachers, and grow in their personal faith.  That is the kind of guy he was. 

He was so passionate, about his classes that if you showed up to his class, and you didn't have your homework done, he wasn't upset.  He wasn't mad.  But, I am going to use the word, 'grieved'.  He was 'grieved'.  You could just tell it.  He was deeply hurt, and personally took it so hard that you didn't love Hebrew, know the Word of God, love the Word of God, love his class, and wanted to be the best you could be, so you could be the best pastor you could be.  And, he was 'grieved'. 

You wanted to do your homework so you didn't 'grieve' Professor Honsey. 

Here it says,

“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God...” 

The Holy Spirit loves you.  He lives in you.  His goal, because he has already made you holy in God's eyes, through faith in Jesus, as your Savior, is to make you holy.  In the book of Ephesians, where this is from, the Holy Spirit is the One who creates this unity in the Holy Christian Church.  We have one God, one faith, one Jesus, one baptism, one Holy Spirit who lives in us all.  He has created this unity.  And, His goal is we live as united people of God.  And so, as we imitate Christ, it says,

“Do not grieve the Spirit of God...”

And now, look at the examples it gives of negative things that would not be imitating Christ, and would grieve this Holy Spirit who lives in us, and loves us.

These are all attitudes, or words that come out of our mouth.  It says, number one:

“Get rid of every kind of bitterness...” 

Bitterness divides.  Resentment divides.  That is not Christ like.  It grieves the Holy Spirit of God.  If it is in our hearts, we build up this resentment to other people.  That divides.

It goes on and says”

Get rid of every kind of “rage...”  

So, now it is going to build, and build.  Rage is this seething feeling in my heart.  “Not only am I bitter towards you, but now I feel like exploding toward you.”  That is not imitating Christ.  That grieves the Holy spirit.  People who He has called to be united, but have that attitude toward each other, it divides.

He goes on and says:

Get rid of every kind of “anger...” 

Now, the Greek word here is progressing along, and it is this:

“You have proven to me over time, after time, after time, that I have a right to be totally upset with you.  Now, I am about to burst forth.”  That grieves the Spirit of God.  That does not create the unity He has called us to in Christ.

Then, it says this. 

Get rid of every kind of “quarreling”.  

Once I get to that point in my life, where I am filled with bitterness, rage, and anger, then words start to come out of my mouth.  The Greek word here is 'scream, yelling, shouting, and saying intimidating things'.  That does not built the unity the Spirit has called us to.  It grieves the Spirit.  It is not imitating Christ.

It goes on and says,

Get rid of “slander”. 

Interesting word is used here.  In Greek it is the word 'blasphometo', or 'blaspheme'.  We always think about blaspheming God, but here it says we should not blaspheme each other.  What does that mean?  The word 'blaspheme', if you look at it, and pick it apart a little bit, you will notice the end of it is 'phemeto', or 'pheme'.  It sounds like our word 'fame'.  That is actually where the word 'fame' comes from - your 'fame', or your 'reputation'.  If you 'blasphemeto' someone, you are 'hurting their reputation'.  It says, “Get rid of that.  Get rid of saying things to people that hurts their reputation.  Stop calling them names, saying things that are mean, saying things that are abusive.”  That is not imitating Christ, and that is not what the Holy Spirit has called us to.

And so, Thomas A. Kempis who wrote this book, The Imitation of Christ, said, “If you really want to learn something about imitating Christ, the first thing you need to do is to see how you look in God's eyes, and how far you have fallen - all of your faults, and all of your mistakes.  Because, until you see that, you won't see a need to have your sins forgiven. You won't see a need for Christ.  And, you won't have a desire to want to change, and be like Christ.”

So thank God, even though we are not anywhere near perfect imitators of Christ, it goes on, and says this.

“Instead, be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another...”  Look at this.  “...just as God in Christ has forgiven us.” Regarding all of my mistakes, all of my failures in imitating Christ, what does it say?  He has forgiven me.  He has forgiven me.  Jesus has died on the cross and washed away those sins.  God does not see them.  He does not hold them against us.  Thank God we are forgiven.

And so, to imitate Christ it says,

Instead be kind.  Someone may do something that might cause my heart to be resentful, but what would Christ do?  He would be kind.  He would be benevolent.  He would want the best for them.

It says,

Be compassionate to one another.  This is this picture of a gut feeling, “I see you, and your need.  I want the best for you.”  That is what Jesus would look out of the crowds and have compassion on them.  It is to have that heart for people, even when they may be doing things that hurt or harm us.  That is the compassion Jesus had, even for His enemies when He hung on the cross.  He said,

“Father forgive them for they know now what they do.”

It goes on and says,

...forgiving one another...”

That is Christ like.  That is imitating Jesus.  Forgiving means, “I will not hold your sin against you, even though you have offended me.  I will let it pass, for Jesus' sake.”

That is what we strive for, as God's people, to be imitators of Christ.

Now I want to show how deep this is, as we look at chapter five, verses one and two.  It is interesting that the board for Stewardship and Finance picked today, as the day we are going to look at how our last fiscal year went, and how our next fiscal year is going to look.  Guess what we are going to talk about?  We are going to talk about offerings.  I didn't pick the text for today.  This is the assigned text that has been the assigned text for years and years, for this particular day.  I want you to notice, when it tells us to be imitators of Christ, look at the word it uses in verse two.  It talks about offerings. 

“Therefore, be imitators of God,

as His dearly loved children. 

And walk in love, just as...” 

Now, here is what Jesus is like. 

“...just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us,

as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

The offering plate is going to come around.  You probably have written a number on your offering envelope, as to how much money you are going to put into the offering plate.  Did you ever try to sneak a glance at what somebody else wrote on their envelope? If Jesus were sitting in the seat next to you, what do you think would be on Jesus' envelope, on His offering envelope?  If you could sneak a glance, it would probably say something like this.  “I give my entire self - my head, my hands, my feet, my heart, my eyes, my ears.  I give them, until it hurts.  I am going to bleed.  I am going to suffer.  I am going to be mocked, and spit on.  I am going to suffer Hell.”  That is what He would write on there.  

And then, He would willingly put it in the offering plate.  That was His offering to God, His Father, for us.  That is what He did for us.  He gave everything, everything, even to the point of suffering, and dying, to make us children of God – sins forgiven.

This passage says,

“Therefore, be imitators of God, as His dearly loved children. 

And walk in love,

just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us,

as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God,” 

That offering envelope, your offering envelope, ideally, for all of us would say, “I give myself.  I want to be like Christ,  I want to imitate Jesus.  That is my goal.  I give myself.  I give my head, my heart, my hands, my ears, my eyes, my feet.  I give them to you, Jesus, for the use of others.  It may hurt.  It may hurt.  It may be hard.  I may have to give up other things.  I may have to give up other pleasures.  I may have to swallow my pride.   But, Jesus you have given all for me.  I want to imitate you.” 

Take my life and let it be,

dedicated Lord to thee. 

Thank God we have a Savior who loves us so dearly.  We are forgiven for Christ's sake.  We are children of God, dearly loved children of God. 

And so, I like what St. Augustine says. 

“The whole goal of a Christian life

should be to imitate Christ.”

God help us to grow in that, for Christ's sake.


Now, may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts, and our minds in Christ Jesus.