Book Club: “Counsel From the Cross” (by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick & Dennis E. Johnson) Reviewed by Gaila Roper Part 1

WHAT DO YOU SEE?

Ephesians 5:1 “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.”

You know how it is when we tune things out. Things we’ve heard all our lives. Those things we call
background noise, or ‘white noise”. Elyse refers to her illustration of living near a freeway, and getting used to it. We do this for many reasons. It’s practical, convenient, saves time and energy. And it can help us concentrate on the things at hand without a constant acknowledgement of its presence. That can be a good motive, or a not so good one. Just depends.

“Familiarity with certain biblical concepts is liable to make them seem insignificant to us. I’m afraid that we unintentionally strip certain concepts of importance and prominence and relegate them to the category of white noise – we recognize they are there, but we just don’t pay much attention to them.”
WHAT ARE YOU AWARE OF?

Elyse asks us to look again at Ephesians 5:1. What do you see? Looks like a command to me. I know that there are other words, “therefore”, and “as beloved children”. Ok, I think I know what therefore means…back up to 4:32. I assume I know what that verse means, so I just move on to the next one in 5:1. When I mistake 5:1 as just a command to imitate God, my thoughts turn to my own efforts and record. I think, if I can work on being holy, trying harder to do my duty, I can obey this. But I know me, being me says, ‘I’m overwhelmed and exhausted at trying so hard!’ I’ve been busy making my list and checking things off. Improving my act. And I fail. Get discouraged. And then go do it again.

What’s going on? What am I missing? If I ignore the meaning of Ephesians 4:32….I have just ignored the gospel! Look at it with me. “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God as beloved chidren; and walk in love just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”(Eph.4:32,5:l,2). If you could, take the time to read John MacArthur’s notes on these sections. If we find ourselves trapped in “duty mode”, it could be a red flag that I’ve relegated the gospel to “white noise”. You see, this is the disconnect. This is why legalism and judgementalism get morphed into another gospel. Our heart’s motive was focused on self. No power there. No grace available.

YOU ARE FORGIVEN

The truth of these verses contain the gospel: God is tenderhearted; forgiving each of us our sin; we are in Christ (through His person and work); made us His children; He is love, as His son is loving and offered Himself up to God, a pleasing sacrifice. The focus here is on who God in Christ is and what He has done for us. Since we have all the above in Christ, “therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children”.  Because that’s who we are. Since God did this, I can hold this attitude toward others. I can by His grace trust Him to work out His desires in my heart. Sanctification is growing in likeness to Christ’s image.  That is our calling. This pleases God. We need to know “The therefore is a gospel declaration, meant to comfort, encourage and inform you before you get to the gospel obligation, ‘be imitators of God’”.

HOW WE THINK OF HIM, OURSELVES & OTHERS

If we forget God’s amazing grace, our heart will have low thoughts of Him. We will assume that He holds our sins against us, and keeps accounts. (Matt.25:24)

If we forget what Christ’s sacrifice cost Him, and provided for us, we’ll see ourselves as slaves trying to earn his favor, never knowing if we have pleased Him enough or sinned just one time past His “last nerve”. Living in fear of failure, and not knowing that God’s kind of love, known as the gospel, provided forgiveness, reconciliation to Him, a new heart with godly desires and the grace provided to please Him.

If we believe that God is like Pharaoh, we soon treat our brothers & sisters like fellow slaves that better pull their own weight. Verses like Ephesians 5:1 will turn into a duty, and applied only to those who we deem are worthy in our eyes. We turn into little pharisees. Elyse summarizes, “Forgetting that we are already forgiven will rob us of those Christlike qualities of kindness, generosity, gentleness, and longsuffering. It will also rob us of the only acceptable motive for obedience:love.” Motives, desires, thoughts and beliefs all reside in the heart.(Matt15:18-19; Luke 6:45;Rom.1:21-32;Jer 17:9). “As in water face reflects face, so a man’s heart reveals the man.” Prov. 27:19

Review by Gaila Roper

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