To realize the full effect of Jesus’ passion on the cross into our lives, the Apostle Paul lays out a precise and complete process for us to follow in Ephesians, chapter 5. I want to summarize that path in three movements of grace.
The first movement is the move to become a full Partaker of God’s love. “Be imitators of God, 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.”
The second movement is faithfully Pruning those practices and pursuits that block the free and faithful flow of God’s passion displayed on the cross in us. “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 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. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore, do not be partners with them.”
The third movement is then to be living Proof of what is acceptable to God. “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).”
The Apostle goes on to say it is shameful even to mention little less practice the things ‘by grace through faith’ we have pruned or are pruning from our lives. But, above all I want to caution you about trying to work this process out backwards. What do I mean? Don’t start with trying to prove your way of living is right or how your style of life is already acceptable to God. The truth is not a single life is acceptable to God apart from the “offering and sacrifice” Jesus makes of himself on the cross. Do not persist in trying to minimize your own or another person’s need for mercy or repentance. The end result will be a minimizing of the effect God’s love can have on you and them.
Reverse this process and we will not prune out practices and persistent points of our personality that stand in conflict to the grace of God; we will instead seek to justify them. Reverse this process and we will end up seeking to make God an imitator of us instead of us imitating God, as dearly loved children are called to do.
This reversal already has a deep and wide following in our culture. How else could you take a day that is meant to honor a saint of the church and turn it into a day of liquor and license? How could we have come to the place where we suspend our support for an event because it doesn’t include enough immorality? How could we diminish the sufferings of Christ to say it need only apply to a few?
“But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk with wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”