If you have a baby maybe you can relate to this: Now a lot of babies come out looking like ET but not my first child, Riley. He was beautiful and so the moment he was born, the competition began. Who does Riley look like? I, of course, thought he looked like me. My wife, Jilane, strangely enough, thought he looked like her. Curiously, when any member of Jilane’s family came over the comments would be the same: “J, she looks just like you!” Her mom said it. Her Aunts and Uncles said it. Even her Great Aunts said it. I have to be honest, it bugged me a little and not just because it was my mother-in-law saying it. You know why it bugged me? Because I’m petty; I thought that was obvious. Whatever the reason, it was really starting to get to me until my family came over. My family took one look at this beautiful baby and said, “Oh, look how cute he is. He looks just like you Jack.” Finally, someone got it right. This was my boy. So my family finally saw the light. I went to my wife immediately and said, “You see, my family got it right. It’s obvious to them that he looks like me.” To which my wife responded, “Yeah, well, that’s probably because you’re holding him upside down.”
OK, that last part didn’t really happen. I read that in a book but the line was so good I couldn’t pass it up. But the first part was absolutely true. Have any of you people with new babies experienced this phenomenon? It happens all the time. It’s this weird competition we get in with our spouse. Most of you aren’t petty enough to talk about it like me but we all feel it. We want our children to look like us. We want them to be a reflection of who we are. I don’t think that ever goes away. Whenever my mom comes over to visit us she looks at Sterling and says, “You are the only grandchild that looks like me.” Sterling is never really very thrilled by that statement. After all, what beautiful 16 year-old girl wants to think that she looks like her 88 year-old grandmother?
Not only is this true of us, human parents, but it’s true of our God as well. He wants us to look like him. He wants us to be a reflection of him. When people see us he wants them to see Him. I had a friend of mine put it like this; I thought this was really deep.
I am made up of several parts as a person. I have my mind, my body, my spirit, my soul. But the only thing you see is my body…and I’ve been lifting. You can’t tell by reading this but trust me, I have. It’s my body that communicates everything about me. My face, my hand motions, my actions portray what my mind and my body and my spirit and my soul are all about. But all you really know about me is my body, right?
I Corinthians 12:27 says this about us: Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. God calls us the body of Christ. There are lots of parts of who God is. He is body and spirit and mind and soul. But all people see of Him is his body. And who is that body? We are. We know that God is love and God is forgiving and God is good, but the only way people in our world will see that is through us. Through the body of Christ. Through the church. I thought that was a profound thought. I do believe that people can experience God directly and that he can communicate his love and forgiveness directly to us, but for a lot of people all they know about God will be communicated through us.
We are his body. We are his children. And he wants us as His children to represent him. He wants the way we live to be a reflection of him. He wants his kids to look like him just like we want our kids to look like us.
Loved People, Love People
A lot of people have a misconception of God. They see him as angry and a rule maker. God is more concerned with what you drink and if you smoke and what’s on your DVR than a relationship with you. That’s what a lot of people in our culture think about God. The God I wish you knew is loving. He’s forgiving. He would do anything for you. The God I wish you knew is a loving father, and like any father he wants his kids to be a reflection of him. He wants each of us to reflect his love, his joy, his peace, his passion.
To come to know this God I wish you knew, we have been looking at the book of Ephesians. The first three chapters of this book revolve around how much God loves us. Today we are looking at chapter 5 and in chapter 5 the focus shifts. Look with me at verse 1
1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2
During the first three chapters God tells us how much he loves us. Now he tells us to walk in the way of love. It’s our turn to love. Have you ever heard the phrase “Hurt people hurt people?” Have you heard that. It’s pretty common in self-help books. The idea is that if you are carrying around hurt, you’re more likely to hurt the people around you. If I were to put a title on Ephesians 5 it would be “Loved People Love People.” If you are hurt, you will end up lashing out and hurting others. But if you are loved, your capacity to love others grows. If you feel loved and accepted and valued, the chances of you loving and accepting and valuing others goes way up. Hurt people hurt people, but loved people love people.
[bctt tweet=”Hurt people may hurt people but loved people, love people. ” username=”canyon_springs”]
That’s why the author of Ephesians takes 3 chapters to tell us how much God loves us.
For the first three chapters God pours into our hearts this idea that we are loved. We are valued. We are his adopted children. Now that we are loved, it’s time to walk in the way of love. It’s time to take this love and show it to the people around us.
Now, I have to warn you, God has some pretty difficult ideas about how to do this. To walk in the way of love is not an easy path. But if you want to have better relationships with your friends and kids and your spouse, it’s the only way.
How to Walk in the Way of Love
There are a lot of ways to show that you love someone and there are a lot of places you can learn about love. This last week when I was researching this message I wanted to know how to love someone so I went to the most reliable source: Wikipedia. Wikipedia has a branch called wikiHow and according to wikiHow, these are the ways to love someone.
- Make them a mix CD
- Give them something from nature
- Buy or make coupons for romantic activities
- Bring them balloons
- Be affectionate
- Share with them
- Cook for them
- Be honest
- Write a romantic song or poem
- Tell them you love them
This is wikipedia’s idea of how to show someone you love them. And those aren’t bad ideas. Balloons, a mix cd, a poem. Feels more like I’m asking someone to the prom, but okay. These aren’t bad. But compared to God’s idea of love, these are juvenile. In verse 1 God tells us to walk in the way of love and in verse 3 it gets real really fast.
3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Ephesian 5:3
You want to show the people around you that you love them…stop messing around with sex! This isn’t exactly wikiHow, is it? This is a far cry from a mix tape. God says you want to love people? I don’t even want a hint of sexual immorality. If that wasn’t clear enough, let me spell it out for you
- If you are single, I don’t want you sleeping around. I want you to save yourself for marriage.
- I don’t want you living together. I want you married.
- If you are married, I want you to keep yourself for your spouse
- I don’t want you flirting with your secretary. I don’t want you trying to get the attention of the guy on the elliptical next to you.
- Married people and single people, I don’t want you to play around with sex. I don’t want you watching sexy movies. I don’t want you searching the internet for pornography. I don’t want you reading 50 Shades of Gray or romance novels.
Yikes! Not evening so much as a warning and our conversation just got uncomfortably real, didn’t it?
So, number one on the list of ways to walk in love is…
1) Walk in the way of sexual purity
We find our second way to walk in love in verse 4
4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. Ephesians 5:4
In other words…
2) Watch your language
A buddy of mine works for the Chargers. He’s in his fifties and he’s a ball boy, isn’t that great? That sounds kind of embarrassing so I won’t give you his name. Oh, what the heck! it’s Mike. Mike has had a front row seat to watch the Chargers for years and one guy who has impressed him in this regard is Philip Rivers, our dear, beloved quarterback. If anyone is swearing in the locker room, Rivers yells “Language!” Just like Captain America in the Avengers movies (I love those). Now, I’m guessing that seems juvenile to some people but I think it’s a call of God in our lives. In these verses what God is saying is this:
- Stop swearing like a sailor
- Stop making jokes about sex. I don’t even want you joking about it.
- Don’t follow up your buddy’s comment with “That’s what she said.”
- Clean up your act because you’re a reflection of me now.
Here’s the deal: We hurt people with our words when we swear. I want to stop for a moment to talk about this one because I’m guessing I could sound very judge-y right here. You might just be thinking right now: “Shocking. The pastor is telling us to not swear. Easy for him to say, Mr. High-and-Mighty.” Listen, this can be a problem for me as well. I’m not really a hit-your-thumb-with-a-hammer-and-yell-out-an-obscenity guy, although I have done that. I’m more of what I would call a recreational swearer. When I get with some of my buddies every once in a while I will swear just to make them laugh. There was a moment where I did that over the phone with one of my friends and my daughter caught me. After I hung up she said, “Dad, you’re just swearing to try to be cool.” She had me on that one.
Listen, God tells us that if you want to love, stop swearing. Stop letting your anger get the best of you. Stop making inappropriate jokes, especially about sex.
You want me to go on? Me neither. But let’s go ahead and do it anyway.
Let me give you number three. It’s hidden in our last verse. Paul writes, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed.”
So behind door #3 we have…drum roll please….
3) Don’t let money be the focus of your life
If you want to love people, here’s the deal, I don’t want you to be greedy. I don’t want you so focused on your financial gain that you forget about the people around you. I don’t want you working a 70-hour week so that you don’t have time for your wife and kids. I don’t want the sole focus of your efforts to be making money and acquiring wealth. I don’t even want there to be a hint of greed in you. He continues this thought in verse 5
5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Ephesians 5:5
The word idolater is a scary one but it has a simple meaning. It means one who follows an idol. We are idolaters when we place anything as the main focus of our pursuit other than God.
6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them. Ephesians 5:6-7
Do not be partners with them. It’s so easy to get sucked into this greedy lifestyle when that is the pursuit of the people around us. When everyone around us is focused on getting more, climbing the ladder, getting into the top school so you can make top dollar.
I’ve had to make an important decision in this last year. Many of you know that I do weddings as a side business. Last year I did 42 of them. I realized in this last year that my wedding business was taking me away from my family. 42 weddings a year means 60 consults a year and 200 emails a year. It was wearing me out. So I made a decision in this last year to do less. And I am doing less. A lot less. At first it was hard. I found that the desire to do more was my partner. It was in my head. It took months to shut that off.
God has one last way he wants us to walk in love. Again, it’s not “buy her balloons.” Let’s look at the verse
18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:18-20
4) Don’t let alcohol take over your life
(We could also add weed to this list thanks to the voting public of California)
Understand that Paul is not saying, “Never have a drink.” At the end of 1 Timothy Paul challenges Timothy to drink some wine for health purposes. God is not anti-alcohol. Jesus didn’t turn water into Snapple. But he does want us to know that if you want to love the people around you, don’t get drunk. It leads to debauchery. Debauchery is simply excessive indulgence and excessive indulgence in alcohol never leads to love. It leads to lower inhibitions and hurt feelings and harsh words.
Proverbs 23 paints a picture of what Paul is talking about here:
29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? 30 Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine. 31 Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! 32 In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper. 33 Your eyes will see strange sights, and your mind will imagine confusing things. 34 You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging. 35 “They hit me,” you will say, “but I’m not hurt! When will I wake up so I can find another drink?” Proverbs 23: 29-35
The Cliff Notes
So there are our big four. Four ways to walk in love:
- Stop messing around with sex
- Stop swearing
- Don’t spend your life in search of money and ambition
- Don’t get drunk
I know that some of you are thinking, “This is the god I was trying to avoid. This is the checklist god I wanted nothing to do with.” If that’s how you feel, I get it. Some people have made Christianity all about enforcing those rules. But God doesn’t tell us these things so that we are the morality police. In 1 Corinthians 5:12 Paul says What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?
God tells us to walk in this way because this is the way of love. This is how to show love to people around you. Go back and look at our two lists about love. They are both good lists. But let me tell you something. Only one of these lists shows how to really, truly love someone.
If I look at these two lists, one of them is nice and has some great hints about creating nice moments. But one of them is real; no doubt it’ll be hard but it’s real. If I’m going to love, I have to do the hard thing and so are you. Let’s look at this list from another angle: How do you want people to love you? Which list do you want people to live by? You know what, I could do without a mix tape. But I don’t want my wife to be free with her sexuality. I think my wife feels the same way. She doesn’t want another Hallmark card that gets pulled out only on Valentine’s Day. This is the way of love. Walk in it.