REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE
Dear friends in Christ,
"When you have a loved one who kills other people, it's such a horrible experience to go through. It's terribly humiliating and sorrowful. I was just afraid for so many years." Those words were said by Sue Klebold. If you don’t recognize that name, she is the mother of Dylan Klebold. He, along with Eric Harris, used ColumbineHigh School in Littleton, Colorado as a shooting range back in 1999. They killed twelve students and one teacher and injured many more. That incident was one of the first of many similar shootings that has taken place is schools.
Sue Klebold has written a book about the pain that goes along with being the mother of a cold-blooded teen-age killer. The book, I am sure was cathartic writing down all kinds of things she has struggled with since then. She is giving the proceeds away to victims of such circumstances. She seems to be a very sincere, and I am certain that there are days she does not like the name Klebold as her last name.
We are the children of God. We bear Christ’s name. The apostle speaks to us today with an opposite tone. “Remember Who You Are.”
You are first of all an imitator…an imitator of God. Here is one of those changes that the newer version of the New International Version changed the translation from what their original 1984. The new translation says, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 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.”
It is not wrong but I do like and think that the 1984 version is more accurate – “Be an imitator of God.” Follow the pattern that God sets.
The Gallup poll has taken polls for decades. They go all the way back to the 1950’s when they asked who were the most admired men and women in the United States and the world. President Eisenhower was the most admired man in the 1950’s. They have for the most part been presidents. Even Richard Nixon was except the year he resigned in disgrace. President Obama is the most admired man in the United States every year since he has been president. What is interesting though is that in 2008, when he was first elected, 30% of Americans considered him the most admired. In 2015 it was down to 13%. Woman? Hillary Clinton! Personally, I am not in their camp politically. I never will be as long as they think a person has a right to kill an unborn baby. You know what? Jesus wouldn’t either. For years Steve Jobs was the teen most admired person. World-wide these days it is Bill Gates and Angelina Jolie.
I hope and pray that popularity contests like this is like determining what book is the nation’s annual best seller. Every year that would really be the Bible. Because it would always be the Bible, they really measure for second place. When it comes to the most admired person, I hope they are looking for looking for second place too, because first place ought to be the good Lord himself.
What should we imitate about him? One word – love. Love like Christ loved. There are five elderly care centers that I go to for worship and prayer. Three of the five are memory care, people with dementia. This week at one of them, two of the residents were having a particularly hard time when Eldora and I were there. One woman who is very hyperactive and bothering everyone, and another woman was simply being mean and cursing. I could see the caregivers were getting exasperated. I never saw her before. She screamed at me too using rather vivid language. I decided to change what I was going to say to something more specific about God’s love for them. Sure we have a God who is holy and demands that our sin be punished, but he is also our loving God who does not want sinners to perish.
That’s where Jesus comes in. Paul says he “loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” With that verse our thoughts turn immediately to Holy Week. He gave himself up in Gethsemane. There was the bloody sweat and bruises and beatings, the spikes piercing his hands and feet. There was the incomprehensible separation from his Father – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” There were the final words, “Father into your hands I commit my spirit.” Why? Because he had done something wrong? Not at all! Because we had and still do.
When Paul mentions the offerings and sacrifice, he takes us back to the temple. There were different types of sacrifices that people in Old Testament times performed. There were burnt offerings; there were grain offerings, there were fellowship offerings; there were sin offerings. Many believe Paul was thinking about the sin offerings that were made. It included a sacrifice for atonement. It included confession and forgiveness. The book of Leviticus describes the offering. Someone would bring a lamb as a sin offering and they would “lay their hand on its head as if to transfer sin to the lamb “and slaughter it for a sin offering.” “Then the priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and pour out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar…In this way the priest will make atonement for them for the sin they have committed, and they will be forgiven.” Can’t you see how that lamb is apicture of Jesus offering and sacrificing himself?
To God this was a fragrant offering and sacrifice. The smoke went heavenward. God was pleased that his people were bringing sacrifices because they knew they needed forgiveness only God could give. Jesus’ sacrifice was sweet to the Father and he expressed his pleasure with that sacrifice. How do we know? On the third day he raised Jesus from the dead.
As one Bible commentator said about these two verses, “When we take to heart the sweet Gospel which is packed into this one little verse, our hearts would have to be made of stone if we are not moved to be eager to imitate our Father and the love of Jesus. Love will be our grateful response to God’s amazing grace.” Those two ladies listened and were a bit more controlled when they heard about the love of Jesus. We too have been shown love to show love. Remember who you are – imitators of our dear Lord!
Remember who you are – discerners! A discerner is someone who understands the difference between right and wrong; what the will of God is and what it is not, one who wants to choose the ways and will of God.
Last week Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians gave a lesson in sex and sexuality, he laid it on the line here too. “There must not even be hint a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” Paul had just taught about love patterned after God’s love. Yet there is confusion about the meaning of love. Love to too many is nothing more than sexual indulgence and coming from selfish hearts.
The apostle says “there must not even be a hint of sexual immorality among you” – not by us or about us. The world is losing its way in this regard. Paul once said that he didn’t know it was wrong to covet. He didn’t know that evil desires were wrong, probably because they stay inside of us. When evil desires are acted upon then it is obvious there is sin. Only when the commandments said that coveting was sin did he recognize it was wrong. I wonder if “You shall not commit adultery” is getting like that too, yes, even among Christians.
One of the sad memories in the ministry is how many lives and families have been blown up because God’s gifts of marriage and sex have been violated. I remember years ago being in a living room of a couple who were both divorced and had children and living together. I asked the woman if her little girl wanted to live with someone like she was without marriage, would it be all right with her. “Of course not!” she said. Kids are watching what we are doing. Ahhhhh! What’s going on here? You’re kids are watching. More importantly, God is watching. When reproductive instruments are making decisions for us instead of the new nature, listen to the warning God gives, “No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” It is time to repent and turn from sin and to the Lord. These are the words of God. I am sure that most everyone knows people who are putting their souls in danger. Read these words to your friends, and families. Remind them where they really come from.
Paul uses all kinds of words here to help us understand what godly thoughts about sex and marriage include and exclude.
God forbids “sexual immorality of any sort.” The Greek word is “porneia.” The word pornography comes from this word. This word is sometimes used side by side with the word for adultery. Adultery are the sins committed by the married, porniea seems to emphasize the unmarried. Yet in a general way it points to any and all illicit sex.
God forbids all “kind of impurity” – the word literally means uncleanness. People often say they feel dirty after sexual sins. There is a reason why. Time to get minds on other things. As Paul says “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” You won’t feel dirty when you’re thinking like that.
Greed – Why is that word included here? One commentator said that lots of times sexual sins lead to the exchange of money. Perhaps there is the most obvious way when services are rendered. I saw these stats that “every second $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography on the internet.
Every second 372 people are typing the word "adult" into search engines. 40 million American people regularly visit porn sites. 35% of all internet downloads are related to pornography.” There are plenty of movies that are not considered be porn but titillates the sinful nature and puts money in the pockets of their creators. Maybe a question that ought to be asked when watching a movie or whatever. How would you feel if the Lord came back in the middle of it?
“Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking.” Sins of sexual kind are also a matter of the mouth – dirty stories and dirty words. I remember a story about George Washington who rebuked some of his soldiers who were exchanging dirty language and dirty stories. Someone protested and said, “Hey, we are men!” as if to justify his filthy mouth. Washington was to have said, “Then aspire to be gentlemen.”
He calls sexual immorality “idolatry.” It becomes a god for too many. When Martin Luther wrote an explanation of the First commandment “You shall have no other gods,” he said that it means “We should fear, love and trust in God above all things.” Don’t put anything above the Lord. When lust and fantasizing entertains us more than thinking about and praying to our God, that’s idolatry. God has been displaced as number one in our minds.
Christians, rise up! Don’t let your standards down. Understand the battle. Understand the lines of demarcation between what is right and wrong. Daily confess your sins! Go to our dear Savior’s cross for full and free forgiveness. Pray for a discerning mind that covets the right but despises the wrong.
Besides being an imitator and a discerner, remember you are a child of light. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth).” At one time these Gentile Christians in Ephesus had run with the crowd in a society that was corrupt. The Roman culture was sickening how perverse it was regarding sex and sexuality.
“Once you were in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” When they were connected to Jesus by faith, their lives became different. Sin was no longer their master. Jesus is, who loved and redeemed them. Remember their story is ours. As children inherit the characteristics of their parents, we also inherit the characteristics of our Heavenly Father.
He speaks about three characteristics in particular that God’s children produce - “goodness, righteousness and truth.”
- Goodness is what a child of God does that is admirable and beneficial to others.
- Righteousness is to do what is right. The Bible uses this term to describe the righteousness that Christ gives to us in the great exchange. We give him our sin and he transfers his righteousness to us. The Father sees the life of Jesus credited to us. But now we aspire to be righteous, to be kind of person God wants me to be
- Truth is living in such a way that what we do agrees with what you believe. We are children of God and want to live as true children of God.
Do we fail? We sure do…all the time. But God also forgives all the time. Because he does, remember who you are - an imitator of God, a discerner of his ways and a child of light.