“So imitate God,” says Paul in Ephesians 5: 1-2, “as beloved children, and live in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave Himself for us as an offering and sacrifice to God, for a sweet scent.” Paul was especially concerned that we should imitate Christ's love and that His sacrifice should also be evident in our lives.
This passage explains what I have called being “different,” i.e. begin to focus on serving other people, rather than serving yourself. We must learn to give up our attachments, the things we want, security, stability, happiness - everything that is inherently good, but that needs to be left behind in order to grow in Christ.
Many times, speaking with Christians about the struggles and difficulties they experienced, I said: “If you want to have success and Jesus, you may have problems in this life. If you want to have both a perfect marriage and Jesus, you can expect difficulties. If you want to have both earthly goods and Jesus, you may find yourself on a rough road. "
I am not saying this because there is something wrong with success, perfect marriage, or human happiness. I say this because whenever we make something other than Jesus a part of our lives, we open doors for hopelessness. I can confidently assure you that if you make Jesus a part of your life, you will receive Jesus - and much more beyond that. But everything else should be secondary.
Love for others and personal sacrifice is not only the key to the character formation process, but it is also the goal of character formation. I wouldn't have to write this, but all too often I meet Christians who want to receive the benefits of the kingdom - a clear conscience, eternal life, prosperity, a sense of joy - while avoiding the responsibility of the kingdom. They don't want to say no to the world; they try to justify sin by Scripture. But it doesn't work. And this inevitably leads to a fall. Christians who never learn to say no to the flesh will be like babies who dirty their diapers and constantly scream. When a three-month-old child behaves like this, it is quite normal. Parents are not very happy with dirty diapers, but they take care of their children, knowing that there will be better times, times when children will learn to control themselves and take care of others. But when a ten-, twenty-, or thirty-year-old continues to behave in this way, when he or she has not learned to love brothers and sisters and sacrifice personal needs for God's desires - when character has not developed - this is a great tragedy for man, God and God's people. ...
Christ is the prime example of Christian maturity, but Scripture says that older brothers and sisters can also be a model of Christian character. For example, 1 Corinthians 4: 15-16 says the following: “For although you have thousands of teachers in Christ, there are not many fathers; I have begotten you in Christ Jesus with the gospel. Therefore, I implore you: imitate me, as I am Christ. " Paul does not teach that he has taken the place of Jesus, that he is equal to the Father. Rather, Paul encourages the Corinthian believers to look to him as an example of how they should live, what they should strive for as brothers and sisters.
Paul said this as an encouragement. He says that maturity is available to all believers, that although we will never reach perfection to the fullness of the kingdom in the coming age, we can grow substantially and mature in this life.