Saturday, August 29, 2015

Be Strong in the Lord!

Ephesians 6:10-20 In the verses that precede our text, Paul lays out the expectations God has for those who are his children through faith in Jesus Christ.  He says that we are to put off our old self which is corrupt and put on our new self which has been created in the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. 
He says that we must tell the truth and work hard and share with others.  He says that we must put away all bitterness and anger and be kind to one another and that we must forgive one another just as God forgave us in Jesus Christ.  He says that we must give thanks to God in everything and submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
He says that husbands must love their wives as Christ loves the church and wives must submit to their husbands in everything and children must obey their parents and all of us must serve those God has placed over us as if we were serving God himself. 
As we hear these expectations God has for his children, we have to confess that we have not always been the kind of people that God created and redeemed and sanctified us to be. 
In fact, we do not possess—in and of ourselves—the necessary spiritual resources to be the people that God has called us and claimed us to be in the waters of Holy Baptism.  That is why Paul writes:  Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.
It’s as if Paul got to the end of that long list of expectations that God has for us and said to us:  if you are to live this kind of life—if you are to be this kind of person (who loves and serves and obeys and submits) you are going to need strength that is beyond what you have—you are going to need the help of God the Holy Spirit because the battle we are facing as we endeavor our lives as God’s children is ultimately spiritual.  The Bible says:
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
            All of us have had this experience of failing to be the people we ought to be as children of God—of missing the mark when it comes to God’s expectations for our lives. 
If you were listening to the sermon last week, maybe you said to yourself:  You know what, I haven’t loved my wife like Christ loves the church, I haven’t respected my husband like the church honors Christ-- and so I’m going to do better this week.  I’m going to be the kind of husband, the kind of wife that God expects me to be as my child.  And you left this place with a firm commitment and sincere resolve to do better in your marriage.
I wonder:  how far into the new week did you get?  Did you fall back into the same old pattern Sunday afternoon or did you make it all the way to Monday?  Take heart!
This dilemma of desiring to be the new creation we are in Christ by faith--and falling back into what the bible calls our old self with its deceitful desires-- is not unique to you. 
You are not alone in this spiritual struggle.  It’s not just your life and your marriage and your family where there are spiritual setbacks.  Paul said of himself:  I do not understand my actions.  For I do not do what I want; I do the very thing I hate. 
And so then, what’s going on in our life of faith that even the Apostle Paul struggled to live out the reality of who he was as a new creation in Christ Jesus? 
What we learn in these verses is that there is a spiritual battle that rages around us—a spiritual battle that we are a part of—a spiritual battle where we must fight against evil forces that are greater and more powerful than ourselves.  Again, the Bible says:
we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places...and against the schemes of the devil.
            It has become intellectually fashionable in our day and time—even within the church—to deny the existence of a personal, evil spiritual being.  But from Genesis to Revelation the Bible is absolutely clear that the devil is real and powerful and is part of an unseen realm of other evil beings like himself.  And so then…
When you combine the evil angels-- with a world that is allied against God-- and our own flesh that’s opposed to God --you have (in the world, our flesh, and the devil) an evil, spiritual triumvirate that we are powerless against in our own strength and resources. 
And yet they have been utterly defeated by Jesus Christ—not by an act of his almighty power—but by his humble life and bloody death and glorious resurrection. 
All the way back in the Garden of Eden, when the devil and our sin ruined the world, God promised that he would send a Savior—the Seed of the Woman—who would crush Satan.  That is what Jesus did—robbing the devil of his tyranny over our lives by taking that terrible burden upon himself—ruining the devil’s accusations against us by standing guilty in our place.
The devil is a defeated enemy—but he is still dangerous to us.  C. S. Lewis once said that the devil is pleased with two attitudes towards him:  the first, when people deny his existence (like the world) and the second, when they give him more power than he has ( like the church).
The devil is real, he is powerful—but he is not greater than the One who defeated him by suffering and death on the cross and it is this risen and ascended Savior who gives spiritual gifts to his people so that we can face our own spiritual battles unafraid.  The Bible says:
Take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
            Here’s the thing—every one of us will face spiritual battles.  The devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 
Each of us are combatants in an unseen, but very real war.  We are not permitted to sit silently on the sidelines while babies are murdered and perversion is legalized and normalized.  We cannot, and must not, give up and give in to the desires of our flesh and the temptations of the devil and the ways of the sinful world around us.  Rather, we must stand firm in our faith with the spiritual equipment the Holy Spirits gives God’s children.  The Bible says:
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,
            The picture that the Holy Spirit sets before Paul’s eyes (and before our eyes of faith in these verses) is that of a Roman soldier—the greatest fighting man of the ancient world.  Roman armies defeated the Greeks and the Gauls and the Carthginians and countless others over hundreds of years and ruled the greatest empire of the day. 
Their strength and power was the reason for the peace that existed in the ancient world.  But for all their strength and for all their weaponry and for all their fighting spirit, they were still no match for the devil and his angels.  Spiritual victories are accomplished by spiritual means.
That is why the Spirit equips us with the belt of truth.  How desperately this is needed in our world today!  We live in a place and time where little babies are called medical waste and men are called women and perversion is called marriage.  The truth of God’s Word equips us to call these lies what they are and order our thought life according to the truth of God’s Word.
The breastplate of righteousness covers our heart with the promise that despite the wounds we suffer from the spiritual conflict that rages around us—despite the fact that we have stumbled and fallen in the heat of battle—the perfect, complete righteousness of Jesus Christ is ours by faith and avails in God’s sight for salvation. 
The shoes of Gospel readiness are given by the Spirit so that every time we are ready to retreat—every time we are ready to run as far and as fast as we can from the heat of battle--we are equipped instead to take the battle to the enemy and go where the peace of Christ is needed the most in our homes and schools and communities.
And in the heat of battle we fight on with the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation so that no matter what kind of accusations the devil makes against us we can believe that we are forgiven by Christ-- and no matter what kind of spiritual blows fall upon us we can know and that God has saved us and claimed us for ourselves. 
Spiritually equipped in this way we fight on with the only offensive weapon that we Christians can yield and that is the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. 
Much too often you hear Christians talk about how the next election or the next law or the next Supreme Court nominee holds the key to what ails us as a nation and people.  You hear the same nonsense in the church when district and synodical elections come around. 
But the only way that spiritual progress can made --and the only way that spiritual victories can be won-- and the only way that hearts can be changed-- is by wielding the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God spoken to us by our heavenly Father. 
And hearing his voice over the clamor and confusion over the spiritual battle that rages around us, we respond to him in prayer, asking God to help our brothers and sisters who are locked in the same battle as we are.  The Bible says:
Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. Keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
            The spiritual battle that rages around us—the spiritual battle in which we are combatants--encompasses our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world. 
In our world today, in this moment when we are gathered together in the safety of the Lord’s house, there are people who will face torture and slavery and rape—there are people who will be imprisoned—there are people who will die for no other reason than that they confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. 
We must never forget our brothers and sisters in Christ who are persecuted for their faith but instead lift them up to the Lord in prayer, asking God to protect them and keep them strong in their faith and confession.
But as terrible as is what happens to persecuted Christians in our world, what is still worse is what happens to all of those who will die this day without saving faith in Jesus Christ.  There is nothing worse—nothing—than an eternity of separation from God in the fires of hell!
And so we pray especially for all of those who are dead in their sins and trespasses—who are deaf to the call of the Holy Spirit—who are blind to a God who loves them and has sent his Son to die for them—that the same Holy Spirit who has brought us to faith through the Gospel will bring them to faith. 
And we pray for all those faithful missionaries who serve in places where we cannot go, that the Holy Spirit would help them to speak boldly of the salvation that is only found in Jesus so that the battle for their souls is won by Christ.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, there is a spiritual battle that rages around us.  Each of us are combatants in that battle.  None of us will emerge from it unscathed or unbloodied but we can be victorious in the victory Christ has already won for us in his death and resurrection.  We can fight on in his strength, equipped with the spiritual armor he provides!  Amen.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Two Shall Become One Flesh

Ephesians 5:21-33 On June 26, 2015 The United States Supreme Court ruled that state bans on same sex marriage were unconstitutional—effectively making homosexual marriage the law of the land.  In doing so they ignored thousands of years of human history.  They turned their backs on the western Christian tradition of those who founded our nation.  And they rejected the God of creation who wrote natural law into the fabric of creation and moral law into every human heart.  They are like the people of Isaiah’s day:
You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay!  Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “You did not make me”? Can the pot say to the potter, “You know nothing”?
That is exactly what has happened in our country regarding marriage—it has been turned upside down by people who do not understand that they are the clay and God is the Potter who formed them.
For as much as we are appalled and outraged and heartsick at the decision of the Supreme Court, their decision is simply a reflection of- and result of- what has been going on in our culture and country (and even within the church) for decades.
Since 1970 the marriage rate has declined by 60%.  The divorce rate is twice as high as it was in 1960.  17 times more couples are living together than in 1960.  Half of new marriages entered into today will end in divorce.  And almost half—48% percent-- of births are to unwed mothers.  We may be appalled and outraged and heartsick at the decision of the Supreme Court-- but we should not be surprised.
And so what is the solution to what ails us as a country and culture and church when it comes to marriage?  How can we have better marriages that will stand the test of time and be a blessing to those around us?  What example can we lift up to our children as what they ought to hope for when it comes to marriage? 
What is needed is a renewed commitment to follow the model for Christian marriage that we have before us in God’s Word.  The Bible says:  Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  Here’s the thing…
            The heart of Christian marriage—the very center of our lives as husbands and wives is not the love we have for one another—but the relationship we have with Jesus.  His work for us-- that makes us Christians, and enables us to be better husbands and wives, is found throughout these verses.  The Bible says that… 
Jesus saved us from our sins on the cross—laying aside his divine dignity and honor out of love for us.  He washed away our sins in Holy Baptism.  He made us members of his body so that we are united to him.  He nourishes our faith with his own body and blood.  And he is working in our lives every day to bring us to heaven.
This is what Christ has done for us and we respond to him with reverence.  It is out of reverence for Christ that we submit to one another in marriage—not just because of our love for one another.  We submit to one another as husband and wife because of who we are in Christ. 
Now, what does it mean to submit?  It means that we recognize that God has established a particular order in marriage and family-- and as husbands and wives and parents and children we gladly take our particular place in that order out of reverence for Christ.  The Bible says:
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
            God is a God of order.  There is a God-given order in creation.  There is a God-given order in the church.  There is a God-given order in society.  And there is a God-given order in marriage for the husband and the wife. 
This God-given order is not the product of an ancient, repressive culture.  It goes all the way back to the creation of marriage in the Garden of Eden.  Adam was created first.  He was the one who named Eve.  She was given to Adam by God as a helper fit for him.  This order has nothing to do with the fall into sin—it predates it—and it is God’s enduring will for marriage.
Christian wives, out of reverence for Christ, are called upon to confess their belief in God’s “order and design” by submitting to their husbands as the head of their marriage just as the church recognizes that Christ is its head and submits to him.
This submission is based upon love-- not fear.  We do not fear Christ-- but serve him in glad obedience on account of his great love for us.  So, wives are called by God to show their faith in Jesus by respecting their husbands and submitting in everything. 
Now, what does the Bible mean by that word “everything”?  It means everything pertaining to their lives as husbands and wives.  A husband may not demand that his wife sin or to tell her to abandon her faith.  She does not have to submit to anything that is degrading or demeaning or that diminishes her as a child of God.
Neither does it mean that the husband will make all the decisions.  Just as in the church where there are many, many things left free to us as Christians, so the wise Christian husband will give his wife wide latitude in how their home operates and how their children are raised and how their money is spent.
But at the end of the day, the husband is the head of the wife and he is the one who sets the tone and direction for the marriage in a Christ-like way.  The Bible says:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
            Husbands also need to recognize that there is an order that God has established in marriage and submit to their place in out of reverence for Christ by loving their wives like Christ loved the church. 
And how did Jesus do that?  Was he bossy and high-handed?  No!  Did he demoralize us and beat us down?  No!  Did he keep us at arm’s length?  No!  He loved us and laid down his life for us on the cross. He sacrificed everything for us.  He took us into his confidence and trusted us with his mission.
The husband is to put his wife’s welfare above all other earthly priorities.  He is to lift her up and encourage her.  He is to share his heart with her and trust her with all that is important to him.  His life is to be given in service to her welfare in time and eternity. 
The love of Christ for the church is especially directed towards our eternal welfare.  Christ has done everything for our eternal salvation and this too is the Christian husband’s first priority when it comes to his wife.
He is the one responsible for her spiritual well-being—seeing to it that family devotions are held and that time is made for church and Christian giving is a priority and that nothing he says or does tears down, or undermines his wife’s faith in Jesus.  The husband’s life is to be lived so that his wife grows closer to Christ and deeper in her faith. 
He does this because he and his wife are united together as one flesh in God’s sight and what he does to bless her is also a blessing for himself.  The Bible says:
In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.  “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 
            Every time Christ and his apostles taught on marriage, they turned to this verse written by Moses in Genesis:  that marriage is the one flesh life-time union between one man and one woman.  Jesus used it when the Pharisees asked him about divorce.  Paul used it here to remind us what marriage is and how we are to live as husbands and wives.  This verse from Genesis is God’s institution of marriage and it does not change. 
Cultural values may evolve and a nation’s laws may change --but the creative purpose and plan of God cannot change:  one man and one woman joined to one another in life-long marriage become one flesh and produce the fruit of their love in the children they conceive and bear. 
When God’s Word and will are simply accepted, all questions about living together- and divorce- and the purpose of sexuality- and the possibility of homosexual “marriage” -simply fall by the wayside. 
For Christians, there is even more.  The one flesh union of a man and woman in lifetime marriage not only goes back to creation, it is emblematic of Christ and the church.  Just as we are members of Christ, united in his body, the church—so husband and wife are one body. 
And just as Christ cares for his body the church by feeding it with the bread of life -and clothing it with his righteousness- and holding it close to his heart- so the husband is to care for the needs of his wife and cherish her as his bride—demonstrating in their marriage the love that exists between Christ and the church.  The Bible says:
This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 
However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
            When Christian husbands love their wives- and when Christian wives respect their husbands -they are not only bearing witness to their love for one another --and they are not only living out the Creator’s command to be fruitful and multiply-- they are revealing a great mystery:  the love that exists between Christ and the church. 
That is why our lives together as husbands and wives can never be merely a private arrangement between two consenting adults as society would have us believe.  Instead, marriage is a sacred vocation for the sake of our Christian witness to the world. 
God intends that those around us would learn something about Christ and his church as they view the love and respect that exists in our marriages.
We cannot cure all of society’s ills when it comes to marriage-- but what we can do, by God’s grace and help, is to begin today showing our reverence for Christ by how we live in our marriages:  Christian husbands loving their wives and Christian wives respecting their husbands.  Amen.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Put on the New Self!

Ephesians 4:17-5:2 I’m sure by now most of you have seen-- or are at least aware of-- the investigative videos made of leaders of Planned Parenthood.  In these videos, doctors who provide abortions can be heard discussing the best ways to murder these unborn children so that their organs can be sold for medical research. 
When the leader of Planned Parenthood was asked about the content of these videos, she was not ashamed, she was not scandalized.  Just the opposite!  She said, “These videos show that we did nothing wrong.”  In these images and in this attitude, can there be a more compelling illustration of what John Paul II called “the culture of death”?!  Can there be a more vivid example of the words of our text that describe those who don’t know Jesus?!
They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.
            Dark. Ignorant. Hard. Callous. Greedy. Impure.  That is life apart from God.  Now I want you to contrast the horrific images in those Planned Parenthood videos with a sign that Caroline and I saw while we were on vacation.  It was in front of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Lake Charles, Louisiana.  I want you to consider the attitude of the people of God in that place-- compared with those of Planned Parenthood.  The sign read:
 “Pregnant?  Need help?  We the members of this church community, see in the birth of each baby a fresh expression of God’s unfailing love.  For the love of God and each and every one of his children, we offer immediate and practical help to any woman faced with what might seem to be a crisis pregnancy.  The only condition is that the child be allowed to live.” 
Love.  Life.  Concern for others.  A caring community.  That is life with God.  Can there be a more vivid example of what the apostle Paul is talking about when he says that the child of God is “renewed in the spirit of our minds, having put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness”.  
            There are stark, vivid differences between the Planned Parenthood videos and the sign in front of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral! There are stark, vivid differences between the people in those Planned Parenthood videos and the people of the Christian community in Bossier City, Louisiana!  It is the difference between darkness and light, between death and life, between a child of God and an enemy of God.  It is the difference that Jesus Christ makes.
Paul describes that difference in the opening verses of our text.  He said that that those who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are “darkened in their understanding and futile in their minds”.  He says that they have “hard hearts and are callous attitudes towards others and have given themselves over to every kind of impurity”. 
Most significantly—most damning—Paul says that those who do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior are alienated from the life of God.  But that is not us!  Praise God for his gracious love and tender mercies and the help of the Holy Spirit--that is not us!
We have learned the way of Christ.  We have heard of him and been taught of him.  We know the truth of salvation:  that the bloody cross and empty tomb, mean forgiveness and peace and salvation and new life.  We have been renewed in the spirit of our minds by the powerful help of the Holy Spirit who has made us God’s child in the waters of Holy Baptism and instructed us from the Word of God and fed us with the Body and Blood of Christ.
And because this is the way that we have learned Christ, the Bible says that we must no longer live as Gentiles.  In other words, we must no longer live as unbelievers. 
Instead, the Bible says that we are to put off our old self, which belongs to our former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires…put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
This “putting off of the old” and “putting on of the new” is not a one time thing.  It happens every day of our life as a child of God—morning and evening-- when the Spirit works in our heart through word and sacrament to bring us to repentance and faith so that at bedtime we make the sign of the cross and ask God to forgive our sins.  In the morning we make the sign of the cross and ask God to help us live as his beloved children.
Putting off the old and putting on the new is what the Bible calls “sanctification”—the ongoing work that God is doing in our lives to shape and mold us into what he has already graciously declared us to be, and that is his dearly loved children.
As God’s children, our lives are to stand in sharp contrast to the lives of those who are alienated from God—as vivid and concrete as the difference between the Planned Parenthood videos and the sign in front of the cathedral—as vivid and concrete as those who kill the innocent and those who save the innocent—a contrast so that everyone who is looking at our life can know exactly who we are and whose we are and where we stand.  The Bible says: 
Let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
            If you remember your confirmation instruction, you will remember that Luther explains the Ten Commandments both in terms of what we should do and what we shouldn’t do.  He didn’t invent that way of talking about the will of God for our lives—that’s the way the Bible talks about our life as God’s children:  the evil we avoid and the good we do. 
We don’t worship idols—instead we fear, love and trust in God above all things.  We don’t misuse God’s name-- instead we call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks.  We do not despise preaching and God’s Word-- but instead hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.
That dynamic of avoiding sin and doing good is what we find in these verses that have to do with the second table of the law and how we (as God’s children) treat our neighbor. 
We can have a righteous anger about those things that are opposed to God like abortion-- but we do not hate people or harm the innocent.  We don’t take things that belong to others-- but instead we work so that we can provide for ourselves and have something to share with others.  We don’t speak ill of others-- but we say things that build them up.
Every moment of every day we are to put off—in repentance-- the old self that is angry and bitter, the old self that loves to speak ill of others, the old self that is unconcerned for the needs of others.  Every moment of every day we are to put on—in the power of the Spirit-- the new self, created in the likeness of God—the new person we are in Christ who is kind and caring and encouraging towards others.  The Bible says:
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. 
            The attitudes and activities and attitudes contained in the Planned Parenthood videos are an abomination in God’s sight and his holy righteous wrath will be poured out upon all of those involved if they don’t repent and turn to Christ.  They grieve God’s heart.  That is easy for us to see and understand—we have a moral clarity about that.
What is much more of a challenge for us is to recognize that the anger in our hearts and the bitterness towards others and our unkind speech are also an abomination in God’s sight and deserving of his wrath.  The Bible is clear:  these sins that still exist in our flesh, in our old man, grieve the Holy Spirit and we must be put off in repentance.
The Good News for us is that God forgives us those sins and all our sins in Jesus Christ.  His death on the cross is a completely sufficient sacrifice for all our sins and his blood shed there has washed them away forever. 
It is that sacrifice that was made for us—that life that was raised for us—that love poured out upon us that changes us forever and makes us new people who love others.  And so we are kind to one another because Christ is kind to us.  We are tenderhearted towards one another because Christ is tenderhearted towards us.  And we forgive others because we are forgiven.
You see, it is our relationship with Jesus Christ that makes all the difference in how we live our lives.  It is our status as children of the heavenly Father that makes such a sharp contrast between us and those who are alienated from God.  The Bible says:
Be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
            If you have ever seen a little boy working with his dad in the yard you know exactly what Paul is talking about.  That little boy is constantly watching his dad so that he can copy what dad is doing.  But he is not afraid of getting it wrong.  He is not worried that somehow he won’t measure up.  He is not concerned about losing dad’s love.  He just wants to be like dad.
            So it is with us in our relationship with God.  Jesus has sacrificed himself so that we can be a part of God’s family.  His death on the cross was a perfect, once-for-all sacrifice that reconciled us to God so that we really are God’s children.  And because we are God’s children we want to be like our heavenly Father.
            We grow in that new life by imitating Jesus.  We learn what it means to love others by walking in his steps.  And we daily put on the new self which is nothing other than Christ.  May God the Holy Spirit grant us his help so that we can imitate our heavenly Father and follow the examples of our elder brother, Jesus Christ!  Amen.