And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption… 5.1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Eph 4:30; 5:1–2) *
I went to school for long enough for it to ingrain some habits. After I finished, adjusting to the new calendar was a challenge. In school, you measure life in semesters. As far as the workday is concerned, the final exam is the long-term goal. But, in regular life goals don’t work like that. There’s no three-month cycle, no restart button. Instead, there are the shifting goals and responsibilities of life.
This passage is all about one long term goal and how it shapes daily ones. The Apostle Paul reminds Christians where we are going and, so, what each day is for. To begin with, he reminds us that the Holy Spirit sealed us for the day of redemption. In other words, he put his mark on our hearts. When we first believed, the Spirit gave us new faith, new hearts, and began a new work he intended to finish (Phil 1:6). He even adopted us as his own children (5:1)!
Just like we have high hopes for our children, God intends the best for us. He has plans to bless us and give us a future (Jer 29:11). He also expects us to honor him and hope for that future ourselves. But we forget. We stumble into temptations. We choose ourselves. Instead of walking in love, we grieve the Holy Spirit. That is a poignant, convicting way to think about it. So often we just say we are distracted or busy or “haven’t gotten to pray much lately.” All of those excuses act like we’ve let ourselves down. But this passage reminds us that it’s more relational than that. Our sins grieve the Lord.
God wants his children to live for the day of redemption. He wants their lives, words, thoughts and goals to be aimed there. How do we do that? The seemingly-impossible answer is that we imitate God (5:1). Verse 2 goes on to explain that we should walk (i.e., live each day) in love. That is, we should respond to God’s love for us where he put us first by putting HIM first. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). It reminds us of Jesus’s example. We should walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
So, we imitate God by giving ourselves. The “fragrant offering” refers to the smell a burnt offering would give off. The smoke would rise towards heaven and God would be pleased (cf. Exod 29:18; Lev 1:9, 13, 17, etc.). This is the same idea that we see in Romans 12:1, “present your bodies as a living sacrifice.”
Let me try to bring these things together. Our life goals and our daily goals have this in common. Since we are sealed for the day of redemption and belong to God, we should live our lives like that is true. Every day we will either live for God or live for self. When we “walk in love”, putting others first serving and loving God, God receives that as an offering. It pleases him. But, when we forget eternity, lose focus, live for self, then we grieve his Spirit. Every day we will either grieve him or please him.
Dear Christian, what is your goal for today? Will you grieve the Spirit or bring him an offering?
––Pastor Barry * This is a brief break from Psalm 119.