The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
August 15, 2021
Be Imitators of God!
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
“When I grow up, I want to be just like _______.” (You fill in the blank) Have you ever heard someone say something like this? Many times little boys want to grow up to be just like their Dad. Little girls very often grow up wanting to be just like their Mom. As that child grows and matures, they very often meet a teacher or a professor, a boss or a mentor who inspires them to say, “Someday I want to be just like so-and-so.”
One of my personal goals in life was to be like my Grandpa. My Grandpa was dependable and dedicated. He was faithful and funny. I loved to go fishing with my Grandpa. Not only did he teach me how to fish, but he also told me some amazing stories about his life. My Grandpa also helped shape the kind of person I would become. Grandpa had certain sayings that I can still hear in my head. If I disappointed my Grandpa by not doing what I said I would do, he would say to me, “Stevie, always remember that a man is only as good as his word. So if you tell someone you are going to do something, you need to make sure you do it.” If I planned on going somewhere with my Grandpa and showed up wearing old jeans and a t-shirt, Grandpa would look at me and say, “Stevie, always remember that people will treat you according to how you are dressed. So if you want people to treat you like a bum— keep dressing like one.”
Our sermon text for today ties in very well with the fact that most people have someone in their life that they strive to be like. Sometimes it is their Mom or their Dad. Sometimes it is one of their teachers or mentors. And sometimes it is their Grandpa. Ultimately, however, as Christians who are always striving to grow and mature in our faith we need to remember and follow the encouragement that the apostle Paul gives to us here in our text. That encouragement is found in the words: Be Imitators of God! As we strive to follow Paul’s encouragement, he gives us two goals. The first goal is: Do not grieve the Holy Spirit! The second goal is: Live a life of love!
Paul begins our text with a very powerful statement. He says, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” The word which is translated here as “grieve” can also be translated as, “pain, injure, irritate or make sad.” This verb is in what is called the imperative form. Paul is not giving us an option we might want to consider. Paul is not suggesting that we do not “grieve” the Holy Spirit. This is a Gospel imperative, an evangelical command. As an apostle of the one and only living God Paul looks us directly in the eyes and says to us, “Make sure that you do not injure the Holy Spirit or cause Him pain or make Him sad.” Why is it critically important that we do not “grieve” the Holy Spirit? Because the Holy Spirit is the One “with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” This is a reference to our Christian Baptism. When we were baptized in the Name of the Triune God, we were given the gift of the Holy Spirit as a “seal.” This is the “seal” which identifies us as a child of the heavenly Father. This is the “seal” which “marks” us for eternal salvation on “the day of redemption.”
Since we are “sealed” with the Holy Spirit of God “for the day of redemption” we do not want to “grieve” the Holy Spirit. We do not want to “injure” Him or make Him “sad.” Since that is one of our goals as a child of God, Paul brings out that there are some things that we need to avoid, and if necessary, remove from our lives. Using another Gospel imperative, another evangelical command, Paul says to us, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”
“Bitterness” is a long-standing resentment toward someone else. It includes all the grudges that we hold onto and refuse to let go. That “bitterness” can fester inside of us until it bursts forth in “rage.” At times this “rage” can even include sudden and unexpected fits of violence. “Anger” is more rational and thought out. This is not the “righteous anger” that led Jesus to drive all of the animals out of the Temple, turn over the tables of the money changers and say, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” (John 2:16). Paul is talking about the “anger” that slowly burns inside someone’s heart as they carefully plot how to take revenge on someone. When left unchecked this “bitterness and rage and anger” can result in “brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” as Paul says here in our text.
It might seem like a “no-brainer” that a child of God, someone who has been “sealed” with the Holy Spirit “for the day of redemption” will not be “bitter,” or fly off the handle in “rage,” or have a slow-burning “anger” inside of them that is waiting for just the right moment to “take revenge,” or be involved in “brawling and slander along with every form of malice” — until we see it and experience it in our relationship with a brother or sister in the faith. Sometimes that “bitterness” and “rage” and “anger” is directed against us. Sometimes that “bitterness” and “rage” and “anger” comes from us and is directed toward someone else. Either way it “grieves” the Holy Spirit and makes Him “sad.” That’s why Paul’s evangelical command is to “get rid of it!” Remove it from your heart! Remove it from your life! And note very carefully how Paul says to remove “all” of it. Do not think that somehow your “bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander along with every form of malice” is somehow justified. All of it “grieves” the Holy Spirit and makes Him “sad.” All of it jeopardizes one’s eternity.
Having laid out for us our personal responsibility to get rid of all the things that “grieve” the Holy Spirit and make His heart “sad,” Paul now turns our attention to the things that make the Holy Spirit’s heart glad! Look at verse 32 of our text. Paul writes, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Using yet another Gospel imperative, yet another evangelical command. Paul tells us to be “kind.” This word can also be translated as “loving, good, merciful.” “Kindness” is one of those qualities that can be difficult to define, but it is so very easy to see. I have known a number of people who are genuinely “kind” to others. Hopefully, you know people like that as well. Hand-in-hand with “kindness” is “compassionate.” This word can also be translated as “tender-hearted.” Again, difficult to define but easy to see. Striving to be “kind” to each other will naturally lead us to be “compassionate” to each other. Together, being “kind” to each other and being “compassionate” to each other will result in “forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
The only reason we can be “kind” to each other is because the God of heaven is “kind” to us. The only reason we can be “compassionate” and “tender-hearted” to each other is because the Almighty Creator is “compassionate” and “tender-hearted” toward us. And yes, the only reason we are “forgiving” toward each other is found in Paul’s words, “just as in Christ God forgave you.” Our motivation for being “kind,” our motivation for being “compassionate,” our motivation for “forgiving each other” can only be found in the cross of Jesus Christ. (Pointing to the cross) Without the cross of Jesus Christ there is no “kindness.” There is only “bitterness.” Without the cross of Jesus Christ there is no “compassion” or “tender-heartedness.” There is only “rage and anger.” Without the cross of Jesus Christ there is no “forgiveness.” There is only “brawling and slander and every form of malice.”
Paul’s Gospel imperative for us to “get rid of” anything and everything that would “grieve” the Holy Spirit, along with Paul’s Gospel imperative to be “kind” and “compassionate” and “forgiving” to each other leads to a third Gospel imperative. It is the evangelical command that serves as the heart of this text: “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children.” Since we are the dearly beloved children of the heavenly Father, we will want to be “imitators” of Him! (Pointing to the cross) Since we are the dearly beloved children of the heavenly Father we will strive to think and speak and act just like Him! (Pointing to the cross) What does this mean? That brings us to the second goal Paul places before us today. Look at what he says to us in the closing words of our text, “Live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
In your daily walk along the path that leads you Home to heaven walk “in the sphere of agape love.” This is exactly what Jesus did for us, isn’t it. Every single day Jesus walked “in the sphere of” John 3:16. At the end of His “walk” here on this earth Jesus offered Himself up on the cross “as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” The Jewish Christians who originally read these words would instantly recognize that this is the same picture that is used in the Old Testament for the sacrifices that God’s people offered up to Him. (See Genesis 8:20-21; Exodus 29:18, 25, 41)
Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was a “fragrant offering” and an acceptable “sacrifice” to God because it perfectly satisfied God’s requirement that a payment be made for our sin. Our “life of love,” our daily “walk with God,” our “daily sacrifice of service in Christ’s name” is a fragrant aroma that is pleasing to the God of heaven because it is done out of gratitude for everything our God has done for is.
“When I grow up, I want to be just like ______.” While each of us can fill in that blank with different names, as the dearly beloved children of God there is only one way for us to finish that sentence, my friends. As we consciously strive to grow and mature in our faith, we will consciously strive to follow Paul’s Gospel imperative: Be Imitators of God!
To God be the glory!