Today’s Reading: Ephesians 5:1-14
Today is a big day in the life of our nation; many would say a difficult one. It is a day to make a choice on who will lead our nation for the next four years. Most of us will stand in line at a polling place and follow through on our civic duty to vote for the next President of the United States of America. We can choose one candidate or INSTEAD choose another. We have been preparing for this moment for months and now is the time to make our choice.
But in some ways this day is like every other day. Each day we are faced with choices. We spend our day making one decision after another. So as we spend time with Jesus, with or without a cup of morning coffee, let’s open our hearts to the choice Paul lays before us to live one way or INSTEAD live another way.
INSTEAD, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. – Ephesians 4:15
INSTEAD, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God – truly righteous and holy. – Ephesians 4:24
INSTEAD – that is a powerful word. Paul continues in Chapter 5 with the comparison of following our old sin nature or INSTEAD growing each day to become more and more like the God we were created to be like – truly righteous and holy.
Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. – Ephesians 5:1-2
Or listen to how The Message rewords 5:2 – Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.
Just as children follow the example their parents set for them, whether good or bad, we are to imitate our Heavenly Father in everything we do – but the primary way to imitate God is by living a life filled with love. We are to LIVE LOVE – but not just any kind of love, the example of sacrificial love that Christ Jesus set for us. When we live a life of sacrificial love, the aroma of our life is pleasing to God. When we live for ourselves, let’s face it, we stink!
Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes – these are not for you. INSTEAD, let there be thankfulness to God. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. – Ephesians 5:3-5
Oh how the things of this world pull for our attention every day! We are surrounded by the stink of sexual immorality and, I have to admit, the smell often clings to us as well. The choices we make in the television shows we watch or the movies that entertain us or the jokes we laugh at – we come out smelling a little more like the world every time. But Paul pulls out another “instead” for us. INSTEAD of choosing to fill our minds and our mouths with what the world thinks is funny, we can fill our hearts with love so that thankfulness is what spills over. The aroma of thankfulness is pleasing to the Lord.
Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. Don’t participate in the things these people do. For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. – Ephesians 5:6-9
I love that last sentence! It holds the secret of how to imitate God or how to follow the example of Christ. It is the light within you that produces what is good and right and true. Christ living in us – the Holy Spirit filling us each day – that is what changes our aroma. It’s not about human effort to be something I cannot be no matter how hard I try. Imitating God by my own strength is like spraying perfume on to mask body odor instead of simply taking a shower and washing the smell away.
Human effort comes into play when we are faced with choices each day. But, even in the moment of decision, God has equipped us with the light in our life to make the right choices. He can grow us to be what He created us to be but in the moment we have a choice between listening to the prompting of the Spirit or participating in the things those around us are doing – Christians and non-Christians alike.
Paul has another “instead” for us in verses 10-14 of chapter 5: Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; INSTEAD, expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”
Christ provides the light for us to walk in. God does not simply command us to be like Him without equipping us with what we need to obtain holiness. God gives us love so that our life can be filled with the same kind of sacrificial love Christ displayed on the cross. God does incredible things in our life so that it is not difficult to let thankfulness flow from our conversations. Jesus gives us the light within us so that our life can produce what is good and right and true.
But we are still faced with choices each day. We can choose to take part in what the world has to offer or INSTEAD we can rise from the dead and allow Christ to give us light. Look for those “instead” moments today. Recognize the choices before you and determine what scent your life will be today.