Holy Living In An Unholy World,

Like Father, Like Son?

By Dr. Robert Jeffress

Sometimes, the most difficult part of preparing a message is not the exegesis of the text, the illustrations, or even the applications. Sometimes, the most challenging part of preparation is the title—tying a bow on the package, so to speak, that captures the theme of the passage but also creates a little bit of curiosity in the listener.

Fortunately, I did not have to spend any time on the title of this week’s message. I was listening to the radio one day while driving to the church and caught a song I’d never heard before called “Watching You” by Rodney Atkins. It’s about a father and his young son. The first verse paints a picture we’ve all been in if we have children or grandchildren. Father and son have just been to McDonalds and are driving home. The little tike has a Happy Meal of chicken nuggets. Suddenly, the green light turns red. Dad hits the brakes, and the little guy’s fries go flying and his orange drink spills in his lap. Just then, as Rodney sings it, “My four-year-old said a four-letter word. It started with ‘S,’ and I was concerned. So I said, ‘Son, now where’d you learn to talk like that?’”

In the second verse, we find Dad back at home asking the Lord to help him raise his boy. That night, as Dad tucked his little fellow into bed, he crawled out, folded his little hands, and began to pray. And Dad said, “‘Son, now where’d you learn to pray like that?’” 

Both questions are answered in the chorus:

He said, “I’ve been watching you, Dad, ain’t that cool?

I’m your buckaroo; I wanna be like you

And eat all my food, and grow as tall as you are.

We got cowboy boots and camo pants.

Yeah, we’re just alike, hey, ain’t we Dad?

I wanna do everything you do,

So I’ve been watching you.

There’s no mistake about it, if you’ve got little ones around you better watch your Ps and Qs because they’re watching you. Like father, like son.

No matter how hard we try, it is difficult not to grow up like our parents—and to repeat their mistakes. No matter how hard we try, it is difficult not to grow up like our parents—and to repeat their mistakes. My father was a wonderful dad and a fine example of a Christian. Nevertheless, there were some flaws in him that my brother, sister, and I determined we would not duplicate. When we get together today, we lament how, in spite of our best efforts, we are slowly but surely becoming just like our dad. Everything from his eating habits and facial expressions to his prejudices and idiosyncrasies has become ours.

The only thing scarier than that is for me to look at my two children and three grandchildren and see how they are beginning to reflect my image.

Regardless of who your father is, there are some redeeming qualities about him worth imitating as well, and in the passage today, Paul encourages us to imitate the positive qualities of our father—but he is not speaking of our earthly father, but our heavenly father.

Remember that Paul’s letter to the Christians at Ephesus can be divided into two equal parts. The first half of the letter deals with the Christian’s wealth—the spiritual riches—that are ours because of what Christ has done for us.

But the great divide in this letter is chapter 4:1: “I entreat you, beg you, to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.” The key word is “Walk.”—the rest of this letter tells us how to live our lives, how to walk as a Christian in light of who we are in Christ—people who have been chosen by God, redeemed, forgiven, set apart for a great purpose, and given a great future in heaven.

In chapter 4:2-16 Paul tells us how we are to walk or live in relationship to other believers in the church. We are to be unified but not uniform. That is, we are to have the same purpose but recognize the unique gifts God has given every believer.

In this section of the letter, Paul tells us how to walk in reference to our personal conduct.

Now, just as I am grateful to Robert Akins for giving me the title of the message, I am grateful to the apostle Paul for giving me the outline of the message—he doesn’t always make it so easy, but maybe he knew I had a busy week and decided to give me a break! But 5:1-21 are built around the word “walk.”

1. The Command: “Be Imitators God” (Ephesians 5:1)

Now you may wonder, “How in the world could I ever become like God.” Theologians often talk about the attributes or characteristics of God, and they divide God’s attributes into two categories: noncommunicable and communicable. His noncommunicable attributes are those characteristics of God that belong to him alone and could never be shared with us.

  • God is omnipotent—He is all-powerful. Although we have supernatural power through the Holy Spirit, we are not all-powerful.
  • God is omniscient—He knows all. We are limited in our understanding.
  • God is omnipresent—He is everywhere. We can only be one place at a time.

But there are attributes of God that are communicable. That is, features can be communicated to us—we can share in them, we can imitate them.

Justice, Faithfulness, and Mercy are just some of those attributes that we are to imitate–he adds, “as dearly beloved children.”

A child loves and admires a good father and will seek to be like him. In the same way, we have a good and loving Heavenly Father, and it is only natural that we should desire to be just like Him. 

Fortunately, we have the spiritual genes, so to speak, to be successful in becoming like a Heavenly Father—as we will see next time the Holy Spirit, who resides in every Christian—gives us that supernatural power to become like Christ. But contrary to what some Christians believe, that doesn’t mean we do not spend any effort to become like our Father.

2. The Command: “Walk In Love” (Ephesians 5:2)

This command to be an imitator of God and to walk in love is in the context of Paul’s thoughts about forgiveness.

When someone wrongs us, we are not to respond in bitterness and wrath and anger, but we are to respond with forgiveness—an extravagant act of love. We are to release our offender of their offenses toward us; we are to let them off the hook. Why? Because God has forgiven you.

Don’t misunderstand this. God wasn’t pleased that His Son had to die. But He was pleased that the death of His Son resulted in eternal life for many sons and daughters.

Forgiveness is not easy; it costs something. When the master forgave that first slave of his debt, the master chose to endure the 6-billion-dollar loss himself. When we forgive someone, we do not simply overlook his or her offense; in a sense, we endure the loss ourselves. Forgiveness is costly.

So why should we do it? Because of love, demonstrated in what God has done for us. Jesus paid the price—an incomprehensible price for our sin. Someone has said, “We are most like beasts when we kill. We are most like men when we judge. We are most like God when we forgive.”

3. The Command: “Walk In Light” (Ephesians 5:3-14)

In verse 8, Paul says that we are to walk in light. Why? God loves light, not darkness. Do you know what God’s first recorded words in the Bible are? Let there be LIGHT! God loves the light.

What does it mean to walk in the light rather than walking in darkness?

  • The Description of Walking in Darkness (Ephesians 5:3-4)
    1. Immorality
    2. Impurity
    3. Greed
    4. Filthiness
    5. Silly Talk
    6. Coarse Jesting
  • The Defense for Walking in the Light
    1. We are recipients of God’s light. (Ephesians 5:5-10)
    2. We are reflectors of God’s light. (Ephesians 5:11-14)

Like the moon, we reflect the Son’s light into a dark world. The world of unbelievers who live their lives in darkness cannot see God. Like the sun,  no one can look directly at God. But they can see the light of God that is reflected in our lives.


Full Passage: Ephesians 5:1-14