EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is an excerpt from Counsel From The Cross by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Dennis E. Johnson (Crossway).  

 C O U N S E L  F R O M  T H E  C R O S S

Connecting Broken People to the Love of Christ

CHAPTER ONE

What Do You See?

 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.

Ephesians 5:1

 I (ELYSE) HAVE LIVED less than a quarter of a mile from Interstate 15, one of the busiest freeways in California, for about eight years now, and because of that I’ve had firsthand experience with what is commonly referred to as “white noise.” Although this busy freeway is so very nearby, I’m rarely aware of it; its persistent hum has become background noise to me. Of course, if there is a semi rolling down the stretch near my home and the driver lets his foot off the accelerator, I’ll hear the popping of his engine, but generally speaking I don’t even know that the freeway is there. It has become white noise, and I’m glad that my brain tunes it out, because at my age I don’t need any more distractions.

While I am thankful for this innate ability to ignore unimportant, repetitive sound, I’m afraid that we don’t do a very good job differentiating between what we need to pay attention to and what can be safely ignored. To be more specific, I fear that 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?

Please look again at the verse with which I opened this chapter, Ephesians 5:1. Now, let me ask you a question: What do you see? When you read those eight words, what were you most impressed by? Close your eyes for a moment and try to recall its message.

If you are familiar with the New Testament, you might have recognized the passage and were probably most aware of the command to imitate God, both because a command to imitate God is astonishing and because it’s not something most of us would think we have mastered. Of course, we realize that there are other words in the verse—“therefore” and “as beloved children”—but because we think we have already understood or mastered the truth that God forgave us (4:32, to which “therefore” points), and that we are his beloved children, we gloss over them. The “therefore” and “as beloved children” are white noise to our spiritual ears. We filter these words out; they have become irrelevant. And when that happens, it changes the message of the verse and, ultimately, of the entire Bible.

When all we see in Ephesians 5:1 is the command to imitate God, our thoughts will turn inward onto ourselves, our efforts, and our record. If we fancy ourselves serious Christians and all we see in this verse is our duty, then we will probably spend a few moments thinking that we need to be more conscientious about obedience. Oh, yes, yes, I can see that I need to try harder at imitating God. Or, if we are painfully aware of our ongoing failure to be godly, despair will flood our hearts and we will feel confused and overwhelmed by such a command. Imitate God? How could I ever possibly do that? I’m already such a failure! However, if you are someone who helps others apply Scripture to their lives, you might immediately think, “Now, there’s a verse I could use with so-and-so!” thereby deflecting the command off of yourself.