IMITATORS OF GOD
"Imitators of God." Ephes. 5:1
It is an old proverb, that men will always imitate the being whom they worship. All the records of Paganism, ancient and modern, prove this. The history of Christianity proves it also. True worship is always actual imitation. But God is invisible, and thus inaccessible as an example. Yes. But he has revealed in the Holy Scriptures the principles of his own government, the way in which he may be said to walk, in his guidance of men. He has become really manifest in the person of Jesus Christ, in whom dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. There he is an example--actually living and visible. I can imitate Christ as a leader. I can imitate him as a pattern. I can become conformed to him as a standard. This I would do and be. If I am one of his people, I shall be thus conformed to his image. If I wish to manifest myself as such, this will be and must be my effort. But let me consider,
1. That God walked in LOVE. The love of God my Savior, who can describe? In his whole work for man it had a length, and breadth, and depth, which passes knowledge. In every part of his earthly work, love was the constant rule of his life, the atmosphere in which he moved. It was pardoning love--consoling love--forbearing love--active love--tender and compassionate love. It was universal love. Even when he rebuked, he did it in love. I see him always comforting the mourning, teaching the ignorant, bearing with the erring, never reviling or resisting the violent.
How beautiful is this pattern! I would follow it--I would attain it. I know it is a path of happiness. I am sure it will be to me a way of constant peace. But I need a Divine power to enable me to follow this example. Let me constantly seek this gracious power--remember the hostility of my own heart against it--never yield to the sinful influence of my own temper; and thus in every relationship walk in love, as Christ also has walked before me.
2. God my Savior walked in HOLINESS. It was a pure and spotless path in which he went. Even his enemies acknowledged they found no fault in him. No sin could be laid to his charge. But it was not mere negative holiness. Every active and living trait of holiness was there. All his acts, and influence, and instructions tended to produce entire love to God and love to men. His was a life of prayer, of spiritual communion with God, of tender benevolence to men. Everyone who was with him might have been the better for his presence. This is holiness. Thus he reigns and rules still.
His command to me is, "Be holy; for I am holy." I long to follow him in this path. What a burdensome service is sin! How weary am I daily of its power, and its effects! But oh what watchfulness, and prayer, and determination, and effort are required in me to walk in holiness! I find an unceasing evil within, when I would do good. But, notwithstanding, I must and will press on in following my Lord. He will strengthen and uphold me by his own Spirit dwelling within me. If I am sincere and determined, he will bear with my infirmities, and enable me to do his will.
3. God my Savior walked in PATIENCE. His life on earth was a life of suffering. He endured the contradiction of sinners against himself. They whom he loved, returned his love with reproaches and sorrows. But he was forbearing and patient with all. I hear no complaining, no reviling, no reproaches, no bitterness from him. How lovely is this pattern! How happy is the heart which attains it! My life on earth is a life of trial. I can hardly call it a life of suffering, I am so encompassed with earthly benefits and mercies. But I have often demands for patient submission. I need the spirit of quiet and satisfied concession to the will of God. I often lose what I desire--am disappointed in what I gain--am defeated in what I pursue--suffer in that which I possess--am injured by those whom I have loved. Well, this is God's appointment, and this was his chosen path. Let me be patient, quiet, enduring, and allow his will to be done, without a single complaint from me. Thus may I follow him, though afar off.
4. God my Savior walked in JOYFUL ANTICIPATION. For the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross and despised the shame. That joy was his heavenly kingdom and eternal glory. It was the glorious result of his work of suffering in the full redemption of his people. It was a sufficient and a constant support. Under its influence he suffered his appointed course, and then entered into his glory. Thus would I follow him. I would enjoy the bright and blessed hope which he bestows. His patient sufferings have obtained my glorious hope. By this hope I would be supported, as an anchor to my soul, both sure and steadfast.
How cheerful it should make me in duty! How contented in losses! How tranquil in adversity! How hopeful in contests! How abiding and faithful in seasons of darkness! Ah, soon it will all appear. I shall see clearly, and know as I am known. Soon the shadows will flee, and the Sun of Righteousness will arise. I will look forward with joyful hope, in certain faith, that my Savior will appear in his glory, and I shall be permitted to appear with him.
5. This will be a most happy and influential walk. If I thus follow Jesus my Lord and my God, in love, in holiness, in patience, in joyful anticipation, I shall not only enjoy the blessedness of the path myself, but I shall be made the instrument of leading others to it also. Such a walk makes religious character attractive and valuable. It shows the power of religion. It honors the Savior. It convinces and silences the world. Thus let me follow Christ.
Oh for a closer walk with God,
A calm and heavenly frame;
A light to shine upon the road
That leads me to the Lamb!
Return, O holy Dove, return–
Sweet messenger of rest!
I hate the sins which made you mourn,
And drove you from my breast.