Return to 'Recent Sermons'                 
Be imitators of God

Sunday, 2ndndJanuary, 2011

 1 Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. 2 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


Matthew 5:48

48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.


The Imitation of Christ
Thomas à Kempis

It was first published anonymously, in Latin, ca. 1418;


HE WHO follows Me, walks not in darkness," says the Lord. (John 8:12) By these words of Christ we are advised to imitate His life and habits, if we wish to be truly enlightened and free from all blindness of heart. Let our chief effort, therefore, be to study the life of Jesus Christ.

The teaching of Christ is more excellent than all the advice of the saints, and he who has His spirit will find in it a hidden manna. Now, there are many who hear the Gospel often but care little for it because they have not the spirit of Christ. Yet whoever wishes to understand fully the words of Christ must try to pattern his whole life on that of Christ.


So it is our desire to continue the work that God began here 70 years ago. To do that we need to return to the teaching of Christ, again and again and learn what says and do as he does, to walk the talk and be disciples – followers of Jesus.


This is the adventure of a life time.  To know God and live as true children of him. to imitate him as dearly loved children.

Jesus calls us to no less.


Matthew 5:48

48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.


Are you willing to go on this journey?

Part of that journey involves returning to the Word of God for instruction for living. This year we will begin to explore the Manual for Life through the eyes of Matthew; by listening to Paul writing to the Ephesians about being powered up in Christ. We will consider the prophecy of Zechariah and what God has to say about revival and restoration. And in among this studies we consider the ethical issues of engineering life and civil justice.

Matthew’s Manual for life is the story of Jesus.

Paul’s template for living is Jesus

Zechariah points us to Jesus

So in our questioning about ethics we will begin with what God has to say.


We will not keep this to ourselves. I believe passionately that if we want to celebrate 70 years of responding to the Love of God in Christ Jesus, here in South Ruislip we want to imitate Jesus. That means telling the Good News of the Kingdom of God wherever we can. Part of that will be putting texts on every bus that passes through South Ruislip. But I want you to use your imagination to other ways of telling the news. Posters on Bus stands, adverts in the local papers, gospels to every home, and Alpha Course, what is on your heart? And may I add, what is God stirring you to do in your pocket? Each of these possibilities costs money. So we need to get quotations, and lay them before God and each other to see what can be done. And then offer your lives and our gifts in the service of our Saviour.



1 Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. 2 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.


First, I want to speak of the motivation:

because you are his dear children.


God’s word says:

9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

John 1:9-13


So the first question is: Are you a child of God?

If you are then that is your prime motivation to imitate God. He is your Father, your hero, your role model, your leader and guide. If you are not family then you can’t work your way in by imitating because God acts out of his limitless lover and grace, so you cannot earn or win his favour. You either receive it by grace and are born into his family or you are unable to have a relationship with God, however hard you try. Islam teaches submission, Judaism teaches obedience to the law, Hinduism seeks to advance to be reincarnated into a higher caste, Buddhism teaches to seek enlightenment. But they fail at the first step. God does not receive, he gives. He is the lover of your soul, the one who loved the world so much he sent his Son to be the Saviour of you, me and the world. So how do you become a son or daughter of the living God? By repenting and believing and receiving. Repenting that you have failed to reach the requirements and cannot achieve it your way, by believing that Jesus has died for your sins and risen and through that death and resurrection, you are offered freely new life in Jesus, to be born into his family. And to receive that sonship by grace, giving thanks for so great salvation and offering yourself as a living sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise.


Action: Imitate God.

You are a child of God, so behave like one! A child learns by imitation. You were born able to speak any language but you learnt to form the sounds that make up West London English by imitating your parents, repeating back what they said. Your choice of music, life-style, general behaviour patterns are all copied from your parents. For good or ill.


So as a child of God, we learn to imitate our Father in heaven. In so doing we acknowledge his sovereignty and the Kingdom of God extends to our hearts and lives.

So what are the main characteristics of Father God?


God is love.

2 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.


 John  writing in his first letter puts it this way:

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.


That is an expansion of  Ephesians 5:2.


So if God is love the main characteristic of his children is love.

The Mechanism of imitation is therefore to live a life of love as God does.


It is important to have this clearly in our minds. It is not a series of actions which we are called to imitate, it is the attitude of our hearts and minds. It is not doing things for others, that is the expression of love. It is the underlying attitude that is where we imitate God or fail to do so.

SO what are we to imitate? God’s love and what is love?

1Corinthians 13 spells it out.

1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

 8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

Imitation needs a model.

The model is Jesus.

following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us,


That is why we are going to study Matthew’s gospel in detail and it is the same reason we spent two years on John Gospel. Because he is THE example. It is his thinking, behaviour and attitude that is the model for us. Paul says the same in Philippians 2


 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

 6 Who, being in very nature God,
   did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
   by taking the very nature of a servant,
   being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
   he humbled himself
   by becoming obedient to death—
      even death on a cross!


One uncomfortable part of this message is that love involves sacrifice. Jesus showed his love by surrendering himself to suffer death by crucifixion. It is not just the sacrifice of time and money, but our very selves. We are called to love as Jesus loved. Nothing less. So do you?


If we are to imitate Christ, then our mindset has to be his. He was content to teach and heal to bless children even when exhausted from a long day. Long after we have become irritable or just slipped away to have some time out from being Christ-like. Jesus was without sin. He never yielded to the temptation to be jealous of others, to cut corners in his service to God, to skip his quiet time, to pretend to care when he wanted to be somewhere else.

Faced with the call to imitate God, it is easy to give up because of the sheer impossibility of succeeding. Its all right for God, after all he is God. But not only have you been born again but God has poured out his Holy Spirit into our hearts so that we cry ‘Abba, Father’ Our spirits respond to his spirit to affirm that we are sons and daughters of God.


The challenge is to believe that God can create his image in your personality. The challenge is to receive his love, to let the Holy Spirit infuse you and bring about the love in your heart that reflects the love of God.


This is a two-way effort. You need to seek God and to be led by the Holy Spirit. To turn away from the tempter who tells you it’s not worth the effort, that sin is more fun than righteousness. But if we seek God we find his Holy Spirit prompting and giving strength to face every challenge in our walk through this life into eternity.


The lesson of the prodigal son is for the Christian as well as the non-Christian. Step in God’s direction and he is running down the road to meet you, arms reaching out to embrace you, he is longing to see you imitating him, he gets such a thrill from seeing his children imitating him.

Outcome: God is pleased.

In Ephesians this is described as  

a pleasing aroma to God.

This concept comes from the sacrifices which were, after all, like roasting and cooking. And the smell would be just like the smell of your favourite meal.

And that is where our joy is found, in pleasing him, in being a pleasing aroma because we are imitating his sacrificial love by being living sacrifices.


So let’s celebrate 70 years of responding to the love of God in Christ Jesus by responding to that love by taking up the challenge


1 Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. 2 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

Return to top