../children of light

07 Oct 2018

Sermon for Jericho Road Church on October 7th, 2018. Notes below:

Introduction

A few weeks ago, we saw in Ephesians 4 that we are to put off the old self and to put on the new self, having been renewed in the spirit of our minds. Last week, Richard led us through Ephesians 4:29-32, where Paul continued outlining the new life that we’re to live in Christ.

Paul is calling us to live radically different lives. These passages can be hard to hear because we can so easily feel called out and exposed by them. All bitterness, anger, and slander? What if they deserve it? In Ephesians 5:1-14, Paul further clarifies the way we’re supposed to walk:

[1] Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. [2] And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

[3] But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. [4] Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. [5] For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. [6] Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. [7] Therefore do not become partners with them; [8] for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light [9] (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), [10] and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. [11] Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. [12] For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. [13] But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, [14] for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

We’re to be imitators of God, as beloved children, walking in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. We’re to avoid ungodly behavior such as immorality, greed, and filthy language. We’re to expose ungodly behavior as we walk as children of light.

Paul is laying out some serious commands, and if you’re like me you can be tempted to feel hopeless under the weight of your inability to match up. How do we live this new life in Christ, both individually and in community? Where can we find hope?

Avoid ungodly behavior

[1] Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. [2] And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

[3] But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. [4] Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. [5] For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. [6] Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

Paul’s use of the word “therefore” shows that he’s tying what comes next to what he’s said before. All that we’re putting off and putting on is to imitate God. We’re being renewed in the spirit of our minds to imitate him. This is how God is. Every time.

God is: truthful in his speech; labors in honest work; is generous in sharing; builds up and gives grace in his speech; is kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving; is loving; is thankful; is light; is all that is good, right, and true.

God never: lies; sins in anger; steals; speaks corrupting talk; grieves the Holy Spirit; is sinfully bitter, wrathful, angry, clamorous, slanderous, or malicious; is immoral, impure, or covetous; is filthy, foolish, or crude in his speech; deceives; is disobedient; is darkness.

We don’t imitate God out of some sort of duty or slavery. We imitate God because we’re his beloved children, and because he’s worth imitating. We seem to instinctively understand this with our own parents when we’re young.

When I was little, my dad was my best friend. I wanted to be just like him. Almost every one of my interests is rooted in him in some way. His passions have become my passions. A part of his character has become a part of my character, because it was worth imitating.

I loved my dad, and I miss him all the time. He made me want to be a better person. As worthy as my dad was of imitation, he was a shadow pointing to something even greater. We are God’s beloved children, and we have the immense joy of getting to imitate him in our lives.

We imitate God to the world and to his Church. This is why Paul gave so many imperatives in the past chapter. This is why he says immorality, greed, and filthy language must not even be named among us. We’re saying something about who God is.

Expose ungodly behavior

[7] Therefore do not become partners with them; [8] for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light [9] (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), [10] and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. [11] Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. [12] For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. [13] But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, [14] for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

Because of Christ, everything about us has changed. We can’t go back to our old ways or partner with those who would lead us astray. At one time we were darkness, but now we are light in the Lord. We are light. And so walk as children of light. Become what you already are.

The fruit of walking in this way is all that is good and right and true. To be able to bear that fruit we need to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. We need to test what’s before us. We need practical wisdom to walk differently.

That wisdom helps us to take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness. More than that, it helps us to expose the darkness around us. This isn’t just exposing the darkness in the world, but also the darkness of our fellow brothers and sisters who have gone astray.

Have you ever had the experience of having someone else expose darkness in your life? It often takes an immense amount of courage, as it can be so painful to endure. There’s one moment of my life in particular that stands out for me.

I was 19 and it was nearing the end of summer. One of my friends called me up to hang out, and said he’d pick me up. We pulled into his driveway and went inside his house, where I was greeted with almost every friend I had at that time. I was walking into an intervention.

I sat down in an armchair and began hearing from them the patterns of sin in my life. I was judgmental and arrogant, prideful and self-righteous, selfish and rude. My speech was often blunt and harsh, intended to hurt or belittle. Some of them were visibly angry with me.

My girlfriend at the time sat there with her head down, saying nothing, seemingly too afraid to agree with what the others were saying. One friend was present but left the room, not agreeing with the method my other friends were using. It was intense, to be sure.

When they were done, I thanked them and left, and promptly stopped hanging out with them for over a year. I told myself that what they said wasn’t true. Even if it was true, their method was wrong. They didn’t follow Matthew 18. They didn’t come to me individually.

Over time, the Holy Spirit nudged me more and more, showing me that what they said was true. I had hurt all of these people repeatedly. A slow process of growth and change began. I started to become painfully slow to speak, wanting to make sure I was building up.

At this point, over a decade later, those relationships are healed. By God’s grace, I’m a much different person. I still have the same temptations I did before. But God used my friends to expose deep darkness in my life. I’m grateful for it, even though it hurt immensely at the time.

Our hope in Jesus

We’re called to live a radically different life, walking as children of light, avoiding and exposing ungodly behavior. We can do this because we’re already light in the Lord. We’re God’s beloved children. Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. So we become what we already are.

We imitate God, walking in love, bearing the fruit of all that is good and right and true. We discern what is pleasing to the Lord. We expose darkness by the light, not partnering with those that would lead us astray. And we show Christ to a watching world.

We don’t go alone. We have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us. We have each other, the community of believers. We walk together on Sunday, at Missional Community, and in Triads, helping to expose darkness in our lives.

“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

A benediction, based on Ephesians 3:17-19, says:

[17] [May] Christâ¦dwell in your hearts through faithâ”that you, being rooted and grounded in love, [18] may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, [19] and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

sermons

character, ephesians 5, sin