Walking In The Light!
Reading: Ephesians Ch. 5v3-14.
Jesus stood in the court of the treasure (or court of women) where the beautiful candelabra shed its light commemorating the festival of light (Chanukah).
The Jewish Maccabeans fought with Antiochus Epiphanes around 164-167 B.C. Antiochus had sacrificed a pig in the temple and desecrated it (an abomination of desolation). As the Jews fought against this man and his army, God was said to have supernaturally preserved the oil in the lamps to provide light for the night battle. Jesus stood up in the midst of this crowd who were commemorating this festival and shouted “I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John Ch.8v12). Read also John Ch.1v4, 2 Corinthians Ch.4v6, & 1 John Ch.1v5-7:
At the outset, I must confess that beginning this sermon was for me personally, somewhat challenging. It was not especially difficult to deal with the plain meaning of the text. The most difficult aspect of preparing this message was the convicting power of the Word of God. The message of the text is powerful. It is convicting. It deeply challenged me at the very core of my being to be what God wants me to be. And of course that is as it should be, sometimes though, if we are honest, as preachers preparing messages or sermons if you prefer we can miss the challenge to our own hearts.
We should not be able to read the Word of God without being moved by it. Hopefully, we do not engage in a merely academic study of this Book. Our lives should be impacted as we read it. At times, however, we will come upon sections, which speak very pointedly to where we live. That is why it is important to read the Bible in a systematic fashion. That is also why it is important to systematically preach through entire books of the Bible. In that way, you can avoid the temptation to skip the more convicting passages.
1. Resist The Temptation To Do As Unbelievers! v3-7:
a. Mark Your Conduct: v3.
“Fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not once be named among you, as becometh saints.”
The expression translated here “not be once named” can just as easily be rendered “not even be named.” In actual fact what the text is saying, such sins, such conduct should be unthinkable for the child of God. In Romans Ch.1v24 the Apostle linked uncleanness with a dishonouring of the body of Christ through carnal sin. In that past day, as indeed in our day, sexual promiscuity was quite acceptable. Everyone indulged; it was a life style which everyone took for granted. These practices were consider natural not immoral. Our society may tolerate such sins; governments may pass laws legitimizing behaviour that a generation or two back would have brought a prison sentence. Yet the Holy Spirit makes clear that such conduct in a Christian will not be tolerated because he or she is controlled by the Holy Spirit.
b. Mark Your Comments: v4.
“Neither Filthness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient but rather giving of thanks.”
Equally offensive to a Holy God and absolutely as destructive to a holy life is impurity of talk. The word “filthiness” comes from the word “aischrotes” which means something shameful such as an obscenity. Christians should not be found in the crowd either telling or listening to dirty jokes. In this age it would seem nothing is sacred, anything goes, and the tendency of the Christian is to lower his or her standards allowing the world to mould us to their standards. At all times the Christian should be endeavouring to lift the unbeliever up to a new height and towards God’s standard by presenting to them a life controlled by God. “Foolish talking”, is what my father often used to call “buffoonery”, “Clowning”, which will eventually lead to comments continually degenerating on a downward spiral all the while gathering speed, which at length will be difficult to stop safely. “Jesting” is ribaldry or cutting remarks that can penetrate ever deeper and hurt greatly. No harm in having some fun, its when that fun develops into hurtful statements and tears apart some sensitive soul listening to the comments and causes damage beyond repair the real problem arises. The Christian must be circumspect. Paul says, “But rather giving of thanks” he is saying, let’s elevate our comments or conversation to a higher level that will glorify God and bless people.
c. Mark The Consequences: v5-7.
“No whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them.”
Such practices, says the Apostle, are a real indication that you have no part in the kingdom of Christ and God, they betray the reality of the heart because these are the actions of an unregenerate heart. Those who repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour will display the reality of a change from the inside out; we become new creations. Paul reminds us “Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians Ch5v17).
A new counterfeit form of so called Christianity is abroad today. People are making professions which entail no repentance, no real conversation, and certainly no regeneration by the Holy Spirit and therefore no new life in Christ. Sadly, many such dear people are deceived into thinking and believing that they really are true Christians but see no need to give up sinful practices or to resist them in any way. It would seem it is business as usual, one certainly could not write over those lives, “under new management.” Let us dear friends make sure we understand the need to make our calling and election sure.
2. Respond To The Work Of The Holy Spirit! v8-10:
The key verse in the passage before us is verse 8: “for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light.” It seems like a nice verse. Taken by itself, it is not particularly challenging. But it cannot be taken by itself. It is defined by the verses surrounding it. And there is the rub or challenge. In these verses, the contrast between living in darkness and living in light will be clearly drawn. How we live will be challenged. And that is what is so convicting.
a. Our Position Has Radically Changed: v8.
We are called to forsake the ways of darkness and to walk in the light. Christianity is not simply an intellectual agreement with a theological creed --- it is a commitment to the living God that is evidenced by a new way of life. And when I apply the standards of God's Word to my life, sometimes I am not happy with the result. There is far too much darkness still there. And when I read the words of Jesus, where He says in John 8v12, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me shall not walk in the darkness,” I am reminded of how important this new lifestyle really is.
How about you? Have you experienced a radical transformation in the way you live? Has Jesus' life within you made a difference in how you behave?
John Kenneth Galbraith said, “Under communism man exploits man. Under capitalism the situation is exactly the reverse.” The reverse indeed!
Christianity, unlike a political philosophy, should make a difference. In Christianity, we are made new people. Repentance and faith turn us around. We are set in a new direction, and our lifestyle should reflect it. Does yours? Does Mine?
Ten-year-old Mark Collier listed, as only a child his age could do, the “STEPS OF Becoming a Missionary.” I was preaching on Acts 13 Paul's first missionary journey: The following is what he said:
- Think --- Do I want to become a missionary?
- If so where at?
- After this go to a counsellor.
- Memorise Scripture.
- Be sure you know the language!
- Decide what group you want to work with.
- Be married!
- Let the people study you!
- Be sure they understand God's Word!
Mark, with his wife Louise at the time of writing are missionaries in Ivory Coast, West Africa.
These are pretty good steps, aren't they? But look at step eight. Let the people study you! Mark is right. The way people come to know what Christianity is about is to study Christians. What do you suppose that they see when they look at us? What they should see is not the way we used to live but the power of Christ living His life through us. Maybe you’re saying today, he's making a lot off this Christian Living, I mean we know all about that, don't we? Yes we do know all about that and yes I am making a lot about this issue. WHY? Because beloved, I am the one so often has to sit with you in a sick room, hospital ward, in some other traumatic situation, with you asking the question, why has God allowed this to happen and why is God not answering prayer when we call?
b. Our Practice Should Reflect That Change: 1 John Ch.1v7 + 2v9:
What we have before us is a catalogue of the perversion of a lifestyle of darkness. The problem is that the things catalogued have come to be called “acceptable behaviour.” What God considers to be horrible sin is being slowly accepted as normal behaviour.
Alexander Pope was right when he wrote:
Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.
Sometime back, a network mini-series called “Hollywood Wives” was being promoted in the newspapers. The large bold headline which appeared in the “Arts and Entertainment” section of the newspaper had this subtitle: “ABC mini-series promises to be `six hours of lust and sin." Jackie Collins, the author of the book on which the series was based, was quoted as saying, “It's going to be a sexy mini-series. So that gets our attention because we switch on the set so often theses days to violence and mayhem and brutality, we think it will make a nice change to have six hours of lust and sin.” Well, you can be assured that “Hollywood Wives” is not about sex within marriage. The network producers know that would not sell, because it would be too dull and unattractive! It is a commentary on our society and its values, or lack of them. More to the point It is it a commentary on our thinking, on our practice? “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his son, cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John Ch.1v7).
c. His Presence Should Reaffirm That Change: v9-10.
“The fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth. Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord”
The phrase translated here “fruit of the Spirit” is sometimes translated “fruit of light.” Paul repeatedly focuses on the word “light” for it is repeated no less than five times in Ephesians Ch.5v8-14. Remember Johns words “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John Ch.1v5). You see if we are children of light, that light will shine through; there will in fact be a presence and power about us which is the evidence of the Holy Spirit doing His work within us, which of course shows on the outside. What others should be seeing on the outside of us is the very character of God, proving what is acceptable unto the Lord should be for every Christian a very determine desire daily. Jesus Himself identified us as “the light of the world” (Matthew Ch.5v14). We are light because He is light, and He lives in us!
3. Refuse To Tolerate Sinful Practices! v11-14.
The deeds of darkness describe the way we were, lives of light describe who we are now. Beginning with the seventh verse of this chapter, there is a stark contrast drawn. It is the contrast of the old way of life versus the new. It is the contrast of darkness versus light. It the contrast of evil versus good; sin versus righteousness; and deception versus truth; it is the contrast of doing my own thing versus doing God's will.
Many years ago, March 30, 1963, to be exact, a cartoon appeared in the Saturday Review. Two scientists were depicted examining the tape of a gigantic computer. Computers were much larger in those days. With a worried expression on his face, the scientist read the tape, and told the other, “It's very, very angry and it's demanding a sacrifice.” Sin, like that computer, demands a sacrifice. And we are that sacrifice! That is why we are commanded to stay away from sin. If we do not, we will “give the devil every opportunity” (Ephesians Ch.4v27) in our lives. The devil doesn't need much of an opportunity either. All he needs is a small foothold.
Dale Hays, in an article entitled Total Commitment, published in Leadership magazine, writes of a Haitian pastor who told his people a parable about a man who tried to sell his house for $2,000. The perspective buyer could not afford the house at that price, so after haggling with the owner, the owner decided to let the house go for $1,000 with one stipulation. The owner would retain ownership of a small nail that protruded from just over the door. The buyer took possession of the house, but after several years the original owner decided he wanted it back. The new owner refused to sell. The old owner found the carcass of a dead dog, and hung it from the single nail that was still his. Finally, the stench rendered the house uninhabitable, and the residents were forced to sell it back. This Haitian pastor concluded, “If we leave the devil with even one small peg in our life, he will return to hang his rotten garbage on it, making it unfit for Christ's habitation.”
a. The Problem Of Compromise: v11.
“Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”
Instead of displaying the spirit of acceptance and compromise we are to be strong and stand against the unfruitful works of darkness. In the Greek text the word “reprove” means “convict.” Luke Ch.3v19 gives us an amazing illustration of this very thing. You may recall, John the Baptist had rebuked King Herod for taking his brother, Philip’s wife, Herodias, and for many other evils which Herod was guilty of. Herod had broken God’s law and John could not keep silent on this issue, he stood firm and the end result was John lost his head, but speak he must, he would not go down the road of compromise.
b. The Peril Of Communication: v12.
“It is a shame even to speak of those things which are done in secret.”
This is the day of freedom of choice; everybody wants to do that which is right in their own eyes no matter how offensive it is to anyone else. The media spills out into those innocent ears of all ages the most lurid and intimate details of one relationship after another. If it is something which offends religions that have come to settle in this country then a hewn cry is made and something done about it. If on the other hand the Christian community speaks they are simple labelled cranks of one form or another and those programmes continue to pour out their filth no matter who it harms in our Christian culture. The Holy Spirit, however, makes clear that we should be very careful of our communication with respect of such vile talk; in fact, we are to speak out plainly and strongly against such. The word translated “shame” here is translated “filthy” in Titus Ch.1v11. the word can also be translated as “deformed” or “ugly.”
Keith Green lamented, “The world is lost in the darkness, while the church is asleep in the light.” It's time to wake up. It's time to allow the light of Christ to shine on us. It's time to let the light of Christ shine through us. We are children of light. We don't need to simply belong to the church, we need to be the church --- to let our light shine and radiate the glorious character of Jesus Christ. End Quote!
c. The Power Of Christ: v13-14.
The book of Job gives us a wonderful insight into a man eventually controlled by God. The first picture we see of Job is when Satan has hold of him and can do almost what he will with dear servant of God, yet Job retains wonderfully his integrity and faith in his great God. Next time we see Job he is as it were in the hands of men being accused of all kinds of everything, his response was strong self-defence and I think he came out on top through all those arguments, notice though, its all me, my and mine, he refers to himself some 195 times. (Job Chs. 29-31). The last picture we see of Job, he is in God’s hands facing one question after another for which he has no answer and it finally brings him to a point where he abhors himself because he can know now the depths of his own evil heart, its God at work and Job responds well and was deeply blessed. Its when we respond to the power of God witin us that gives us the necessary light to walk in the light and keep away from the darkness.
Watching a trapeze show is breathtaking. We wonder at the dexterity and timing. We gasp at near-misses. In most cases, there is a net underneath. When they fall, they jump up and bounce back to the trapeze. In Christ, we live on the trapeze. The whole world should be able to watch and say, "Look how they live, how they love one another. Look how well the husbands treat their wives. And aren't they the best workers in the factories and offices, the best neighbours, the best students?" That is to live on the trapeze, being a show to the world.
What happens when we slip? The net is surely there. The blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ, has provided forgiveness for "all" our trespasses. Both the net and the ability to stay on the trapeze are works of God's grace. Of course, we cannot be continually sleeping on the net. If that is the case, I doubt whether that person is a trapezist.
Juan Carlos Ortiz in As I Have Loved You. Leadership, Vol. 5, no. 4.