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On the Imitation of God

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice
The Truth Network Radio
January 18, 2021 7:00 am

On the Imitation of God

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice

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January 18, 2021 7:00 am

Have you ever observed a small child’s mannerisms and realized that they seem to mimic that of their parents? As children, we learn and grow by copying others. The Bible calls us to grow spiritually in this same way but by being imitators of God. That may seems like a monumental task, but on this broadcast of The Bible Study Hour, Dr. Boice will explain what this looks like in daily life.

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Have you ever observed a small child's mannerisms and realize that they seem to mimic that of their parents as children we learn and grow by copying others. The Bible calls us to grow spiritually in the same way. But by being imitators of God that may seem like a monumental task, but on this broadcast of the Bible study our Dr. James Boyce will explain what this looks like in daily life.

Welcome to the Bible study our radio and Internet broadcast with Dr. James Boyce preparing you to think and act biblically. If being an imitator of God is the ultimate duty of every believer and are we simply set up for disaster. How can we possibly imitate a good God who is holy, just, and perfect. Let's listen in as Dr. Boyce addresses this very issue with helpful teaching from Ephesians chapter 5, the fifth chapter of the book of Ephesians begins with one of the most startling admonitions in all the Bible it says be imitators of God, the only place in the Bible where these words occur and what makes them so startling is that they point us to standard beyond which there is just no other standard William Barclay called this the highest standard in all the world. Alexander McLaren called it the sum of all duty to Martin Lloyd Jones.

It was Paul's supreme argument. The highest level of all in doctrine and practice sleep ultimate ideal. This phrase be imitators of God reminds us at once all that Christian classic written by St. Thomas, a campus called of the imitation of Jesus Christ, the compass was born in the year 1380 at a time when Europe was in turmoil. The church was in turmoil. The arrival pokes one sitting on the throne of St. Peter's in Rome.

Second, attempting to rule from having your own in France.

The hundred years war was in progress.

The Black death had recently ravaged city after city, and it was a time like this time of turmoil, distress and fear, in which St. Thomas temples was born. He entered a monastery and probably in the 1420s, wrote this book, which has been called by many people.

The most influential book that has ever been written. To be honest I don't think it has been all that influential, and as I read it. I'm not as enthralled with this particular classic. As I have been with other great Christian Classics, but my point is that book has been influential and down through the centuries since it was written. Many Christians have studied it and have apparently not found it particularly difficult or overwhelming to face the concept of imitating Jesus of history they received it rather is a challenge. The imitation of God. That seems entirely different. Jesus, God and the flash well that we can understand, but God Almighty. The sovereign God the Creator. How do we imitate a God like that of a challenge like that an admonition like that just seems beyond us. Part of the problem, of course, comes from what in theology are called God's bond communicable attributes that word non-communicable refers to those characteristics of God which are unique to God which he doesn't share and can share human beings we think at once of such concepts as self existence, self sufficiency and eternity. Self existence means that God has no origins, and because he has no origins. He is not responsible to anybody. We're not like that. Everything we know everything that exists as origins and when were thinking of human beings that involves also accountability were accountable to many people, and God is not like that God exists in himself without any support from anyone else and we can't imitate him and that Oregon wheat we think of his self sufficiency. That means God has no needs.

Again, were not like that. We have many needs. We have needs for food, clothing and shelter, and companionship. We would have need for something like oxygen of our supply of oxygen is cut off, even for a few moments, we, God, God has no needs and so that puts them as it were out of our reach, and in addition to that he's eternal, which means that he is always been that is not true. Abbasi will always be, and he is unchangeable in his eternity, and in all his other attributes. We change daily, moment again we can think of other attributes. How about God's omnipotence.

Omnipotence means it is all-powerful were not all-powerful. We can never be all-powerful if we could be all-powerful would be God. God is omniscient.

That means he knows all things. We don't know all things we will never know all things were going to spend all eternity. Learning about God's omnipresence means God is everywhere, all time's equally like that we will never be omnipresence you and think of God's majesty, or especially God's holiness in its full sense is that which more than anything else that's God apart from his creation is what makes him as the theologians say holy other were not like God. In those respects, and so we come to a phrase like this and we read, be imitators of God, and we say rightly, how can we possibly imitate God in those respects, you know, it isn't even much easier when we come down to what we call God's communicable attributes as of the attributes of God in which we share things like compassion, faithfulness, mercy, wrath, justice, love, and so on. Now we have a measure of those things we may not ever be able to establish perfect justice, but we have an ideal of justice, and we strive for justice. We may never be able to be 100% faithful in our dealings with other people or with God, but we have a standard of faithfulness and and we try to be faithful in our relationship is on through all those other attributes and that's all right as long as were thinking on the human level and applying that to human situations. We can do that but the problem comes when we begin to compare our faithfulness to God's faithfulness are justice to God's justice. Our love to God's love and so on. The soon as we do that just overwhelmed by the comparison we say we can't be like God, not really like God and those things yet. Here's the apostle Paul writing in the apostle Paul says be imitators of God we can do that in ourselves, but the same apostle who said be imitators of God also said I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me and is in the power and the life of Christ that we are to carry out this biblical command.

When we begin to look at it in its context.

The first thing we see is that it belongs with the preceding paragraph.

Most of our Bibles indicate that these days actually you have to put it together with verse 32, at least of the preceding chapter so it reads like this 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 first thing we see is that all of that belongs together in the second thing we notice when we begin to take that phrase in its context is that although it would've been possible for Paul to speak about a number of God's communicable attributes and say to us imitate God in these respects. What he actually does is focus on just one because what Paul is talking about in these verses is the love of God and how it operates and what is really challenging us to do is to imitate God's love and respect to the loving nature of God that we are to imitate the creator. I was as a number of interesting things about this love of God. He defines it for us because nebulous love. It's not fantasy love.

It's not a secular love. It's not our warps distorted sinful love its divine love that he has in mind. So when he begins to define it. He spells out quite clearly what kind of love he has in mind and therefore what kind of love. It is weird imitate as God's dearly loved children. The first thing he says is that it's a forgiving love that's what you have in the verse immediately preceding be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

People have such tremendous need for forgiveness. I have a friend who's a psychiatrist. I was talking to some time ago about this. He was referring to his practice. He said I'm quoting him as nearly as I can as far as I'm concerned most about a psychiatrist does is directly related to forgiveness. People come to him with problems they feel guilty about their part in these problems there seeking forgiveness.

In effect, they confess their sins to the counselor may find that he forgives the mentor pattern is set up in which they can show their change of heart in tangible ways toward other persons.

John RW Stott has a book on confession in which he quotes the head of a large mental hospital in England is having set on one occasion, I could dismiss My patients tomorrow if they could be assured of forgiveness is what people need to be assured of forgiveness and of course that is what we can have in Jesus Christ.

That is what God is achieved for us by the death of Jesus Christ.

God takes our alienation so seriously, and his desire to forgive and have us know that forgiveness so seriously that he sent the Lord Jesus Christ to die in our place to pay the price of our sin and to open the channels between ourselves as forgiving sinners, and God once again see as long as we think were pretty good people and therefore really don't have much need of forgiveness were not going to be very strong in forgiving other people.

But what we know ourselves to be sinful men and women who have hundreds, God in his holiness at majesty, when we have behaved an utterly abominable way and inexplicable, unreasonable, sinful, irrational way against God so that we have set ourselves up as our own gods and spurned his grace and love and mercy and rightful rule over us when we understand ourselves to be people like that whom God has nevertheless allowed and redeemed in Jesus Christ and forgiven on the basis of what the Lord Jesus Christ did then see whole new possibilities opened up before us. Life is changed and because we been forgiven, we find that we can be forgiving when the apostle Paul says, as he does here imitate God in his love and respect to the forgiving nature of that lobby really does set before us something we can do is not saying say here is a standard which, because it is embodied perfectly in God is a standard you can't reach saying. Quite the contrary, it is because God has demonstrated that in his relationship to you.

It is precisely because of that you can exercise that kind of love one another child in many respects can't imitate its parent sun can imitates his father in many ways because his father is a father. His justice on the father's grown-up. He's just a boy, but he can imitate the father in many ways and daughter can imitate her mother in every way because her mother's mother and her mother is grown-up and she's just a daughter but she can imitate her mother in many ways. That's what Paul is saying here just because we are not gaunt and will never be. God is no excuse for our failing to show forgiving love as God has shown that forgiving loved us so that's the first thing the second thing the apostle Paul talks about when he begins to describe what kind of love. This is, is that it is a giving love not merely a forgiving love. What a giving love because he says Jesus loved us and gave himself up for us as an offering and sacrifice to God. When we talk about God's gifts. We have to talk about many things, because God has given us a whole world of things richly to enjoy God created the first man and woman Adam and Eve and place them in Eden. He'd already prepared a beautiful world, received was a world perfectly suited to their needs was an environment in which they could live be comfortable. It was an environment that provided food for them.

They even had meaningful work to do in this evening into which God had placed them we know of course that sin is entered in sin is marred God's creation, as it is marred us and part of the judgment on Adam was that the ground, which before that time apparently had produced fruit without any mixture of oil or difficulty for Adam now would produce it with Thornton's and Adam would reap his food with hard work and such things. Sin greatly marred the creation and yet it still in evidence of God's love toward us in that all the things we have all the things we enjoy all of those come to us ultimately from God, who gives liberally as were told in Scripture and upbraided not.

We have all about you when we talk about giving.

It's always bad. You say if you're getting what you give are things rather than the gift of yourself. God merely given us things the world life health-food clothing companionship all about about it merely given aside and it somehow withheld himself we would say well you know where we are thankful for what God has given, but we wish there were more.

We wish we could really have God also what the Bible teaches us were beginning band is a God is not only given things God has given himself and not only has he given himself. He is given himself, even up to death in the person of Jesus Christ in order that we might have himself in full measure. I like what Paul writes in the second chapter of Philippians where he's talking about the incarnation of Christ. He said he counted equality with God, not a thing to be grasped. That means retained at all costs but rather he emptied himself, took upon himself the form of a servant's and being found in fashion like a man. He subjected himself to death, even death on the cross. What that tells us is the God would give us all things was now giving us himself and not only was he giving us himself. He was giving us himself a great personal cost. Jesus gave up things in order to become like us and died for our salvation is why when the Bible talks about the love of God.

He hardly ever talks about the love of God without relating it to the cross because it's in light of the death of Jesus Christ, God's on the week. Learn how giving a personally giving love of God really is. John 316 for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. First John 410. This is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Romans 58 God demonstrates his own love for us in this while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Galatians 220. I've been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me life.

I live in the body I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. John 1513 Jesus said greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You give yourself other people in imitation of God, who gave himself for you. That's what Paul says you should do, but only that your love should be forgiving your love should beginning as well. The greatest gift you can give is yourself in time prayer interests and help all those things go into human relationships. There is no greater demonstration of true love, the love of God and that is 1/3 thing Paul says here. Not only that the love of God is a forgiving love and giving love. He also says it is a living love because that's his language verse two and live a life of love that involves two things I think one is that it's a practical active kind of love that Paul has in mind it's in other words, the kind of love that expresses itself in the things he is just talked about earlier in the very same paragraph, we saw that he is talking in terms of putting off one kind of behavior and putting on another kind of behavior.

He says we are to put off falsehood and instead of that were to speak truth, the kind of truth that helps people.

He says that we are to put off anger. He says that we are to put off stealing and instead work for a living. In order that we might have substance whereby to give other people because were to put off unwholesome talk and instead speak words that edify the build up other Christians and other people he says were to put up bitterness and rage and anger in brawling and slander and every form of malice and in part, in place of those fine places where to be kind and compassionate and forgiving somebody says live a life of love what he's talking about is a practical active thing that goes on throughout life.

All our relationships and at all times and I think to because what is involved here is not merely our life with the life of God life of God in us. I think he's talking about a love that is eternal and unchanging, faithful kind of love that God has demonstrated for us in saving us. God doesn't save us. In order to let us fall again doesn't rescue us in order to allow us to go to hell. In the end, but rather he Orth begun a good work and you will continue an end of the day of Jesus Christ is why Paul says at the very end of the eighth chapter of Romans as he talks about the love of Christ mass the rhetorical question. Whatever can separate us from the love of Christ answers nothing can separate us from the love of Christ either angels or principalities or powers or things present, or things to come. Her height or depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord is because it's a living love flows from the very character of God saved us imitates God and that is a we are in any trouble loving we don't always love well we are in any trouble, loving like that. But what we have trouble doing is continuing to love and he says that's what God is done for you.

If God allowed his love to be contingent upon your obedience, and that love would go up and down the way you go up and down and you fall away and be lost. But God is not like that. God loves faithfully and continually, and he loves you as much when you sin is when you look for him. It saddens them. Have you sent, but he doesn't cease to love and he says that is the way we are to love. If we are really imitators of God and over going to do that were going to have to spend time with God. That word imitator or imitate that you have here in the text.

In the Greek language is, the word imitates the word from which we get our word mimic mimic means to copy somebody closely look at them and watch them and then do exactly what they do. The same word from which we get our word. My kind of performer that is copying some type of behavior and this is what Paul says were to do, how are you going to copy God. You don't spend time with God when you know what God is like. You will know how he thinks you won't know how he acts. But if you spend time with him, then you'll be able to speak as God speaks to be able to act as God acts behavior will begin to become increasingly like God's behavior. So that's the challenge. Spend time with God, spend time with God in prayer.

Spend time with God in Bible study spend time with God in worship the God who is in the business of rescuing sinners from their sin and filling them with his spirit and transforming them in the image of his beloved son were working to make you like himself. The praise of the glory of his great grace of his bright father we come to a text like this and we are humbled by it we must be. We look to you. We say how can we ever be like you yet that's what were called to a so instead of making excuses for ourselves, or exaggerating the problems, give us grace just to take the first steps along that path, by the power of your spirit working in us and through the practice of our spending time with you. Grant that tomorrow we might be a little more like you than we are today. The day after that we might be a little more like you than we will be tomorrow, and so on until that day when by your grace.

We see you face-to-face are made like the Lord Jesus Christ your express image forever more.

Pray in his name with joyful anticipation of what you will do. Amen and amen. You are listening to the Bible study hour with the Bible teaching of Dr. James Boyce listener supported ministry of the alliance of confessing Evangelicals.

The alliance exists to promote a biblical understanding and worldview. Drawing upon the insight and wisdom of reformed theologians from decades and even centuries gone by. We seek to provide Christian teaching that will equip believers to understand and meet the challenges and opportunities of our time and place. Alliance broadcasting includes the Bible study hour with Dr. James Boyce every last word with Bible teacher, Dr. Philip Reich and Dr. Barnhouse in the Bible featuring Donald Barnhouse. For more information on the alliance including a free introductory package for first-time callers or to make a contribution. Please call toll-free 1-800-488-1888. Again, that's 1-800-488-1888. You can also write the alliance at Box 2000, Philadelphia PA 19103 or you can visit us online@alliancenets.org for Canadian smell. Those 2237 Hills Dr., Scarborough, ON. In one scene 2Y9 ask for your free resource catalog between books, audio commentaries, booklets, videos, and a wealth of other materials from outstanding reformed teachers and thank you again for your continued support and for listening to Bible study


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