Walk As Children of Light (Ephesians 5:5-21)Series: Ephesians (Your Identity in Christ)
Last time in our study of Ephesians Paul instructed us to imitate God. We studied what children of God do and what children of God do not do. Children of God walk in love by giving themselves up for others as Christ did. Sexual immorality, greed, and filthy talk must not even be named among us. Paul strongly warns us here - anyone who is sexually immoral, impure, or greedy has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Those words should ring loudly in our ears. Isn’t it scary to think about the brothers and sisters who have been lost along the way in darkness? Satan seized them and did not let go. We don’t want that to be us. We want the inheritance awaiting us when Christ returns. We want to be with our God forever. In Ephesians 5:5-21, Paul seizes on these desires and shows us practical ways we can stay on the right path. We will not examine every inch of this text; instead, we will consider it from this high level. Notice the first way to stay in the light in Ephesians 5:5-6.
1) Let No One Deceive You (5:5-6)
In recent years this warning has stood out to me more. Paul issues a strong warning that no sexually immoral or greedy person will have an inheritance in the kingdom, then he issues another strong warning: let no one deceive you about what I just said. This warning is so relevant because our world tries to deceive us about these very sins! Through tv, music, our friends, nominal Christians, or our own minds saying its okay, Satan tries to cause us to believe that impurity and greed are really not that harmful. I have known more people than I can count who both believed in God and told me God wouldn’t condemn me if I slept with my girlfriend. I have to believe Satan works in the same way with greed - deceiving us into thinking it isn’t a big deal to hope that happiness is just another credit card swipe away.
Sin is a problem, but deceit about sin is even more dangerous. Repentant people who trust Jesus can be forgiven. But if we are deceived into thinking that wrath will not come upon the disobedient, we have no hope. Let’s see the people who try to deceive us with empty words for who they are. Let’s see Satan for who he is. We are in a garden. God has blessed us richly, but he has told us, “Do not eat from the fruit of that tree or you will die.” Day by day and week by week Satan will test our faith in God’s word, “You know, you really won’t die. It’s actually really great. Take a bite.” If we want to keep walking in the light as God’s children, let us allow no one to deceive us with these empty words. For these sins, the wrath of God does come upon the sons of disobedience. Notice a second way to stay in the light in verses 7-9.
2) Do Not Become Partners with Them (5:7-9)
It has amazed me in recent years to see how much a person’s lifestyle changes based on the people they are with. Recently, I have thought about how much Ashley and I have grown in the past couple years. We believe one of the biggest reasons for that is our partnership with you all. You are a needed example in our lives. We would be different people today if we had committed our lives to people who willfully disobey God. I like to think that I am a rock on an island (“try to move me, but I won’t budge!”), but no one is. Paul is imploring us to think differently. Part of learning how to walk as a child of light is accepting that who we partner with matters. At one time we were in darkness, but now we are light, so we need to walk like it. We simply cannot make best friends with the same people we used to be best friends with. If we are attached at the hip with people of darkness, they will drag us with them into condemnation. “Bad company ruins good morals,” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
There is a difference between partnering with the sons of disobedience and showing mercy to weak, sinful people. Jesus ate with sinners because they were spiritually sick and he knew he could impact them with love and mercy. He instructed the apostles to leave towns filled with stubborn people who refused to listen or change. We have no business shunning sinners who are hungry for mercy, but we also have no business snuggling up to people who refuse devise anything but evil. It takes wisdom to see the difference. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers,” (Psalm 1:1). Our problem is when we walk in a sinners’ counsel, stand on their road, and sit in their seats. Consider your life, are you partnered up with people who are dragging you into sin? Run! Do not be partners with them. Notice a third admonition in verse 10 and verse 17.
3) Discern What is Pleasing to the Lord (5:10, 17)
Paul admonishes us to try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord and to understand what the will of the Lord is. Initially, this seemed like the biggest “duh” in the passage. But, as I thought about it, I realized how helpful this is to keep in mind. For me, I end up doing the most foolish and sinful things when I don’t pause and open up to seriously ask the question: what would be pleasing to the Lord? What is the will of the Lord here? These questions can really keep us out of a lot of sinful blunders if we will only have the courage to ask them. Unfortunately, we may often fail to ask these questions because we don’t want to be wrong or feel guilty. We want to do what we do boldly and without concern for what God does or does not want.
But this is what we must do if we want to stay in the light. If we want to enjoy an inheritance in God’s kingdom, we can’t shoot from the hip with the decisions we make in life. So before we say those words to someone, let’s ask, “What would please the Lord?” Before we post something on social media, let’s ask, “Will it please the Lord for me to write this?” Before we go to that place, click on that link, drink that drink, take that job, meet up with that person, and before we do anything when that little voice is warning us - let’s ask, “What would please the Lord?” This simple question has probably saved countless souls and it can save yours. Notice now a fourth way to ensure we continue in the light in verses 11-14.
4) Expose the Unfruitful Works of Darkness (5:11-14)
God distinguishes light from dark throughout Scripture. When God created light, he separated it from dark. God plagued Egypt with darkness during the ten plagues and during the crossing of the Red Sea, but he continuously gave light to Israel. In the tabernacle, God instructed Israel to keep the candlesticks lit. The prophets foretold that Christ and his people would be a light to the world in darkness. God’s distinction between light and dark is important. Without light, we don’t see sin for what it is. Without light, we can comfortably hide shameful works. Knowing this, Paul instructs us to expose unf. What is exposed by the light becomes visible, and what is made visible becomes light. The worst for sin is darkness.
We recently installed “daylight” bulbs in our house. Ashley commented recently that these bulbs keep us awake and alert late at night. The same thing is true with having Christ - the true light - in our life. When we read his words and his examples, he shines a light and exposes our hearts. We are more alert to sin around us. But secrets breed sins. We sin, but we think, “It is just a small sin. Everyone has done this. It isn’t worth making it a big deal.” There is sin in the church, “But if I address this, they will leave.” But a little leaven leavens the whole lump. Leaven loves a quiet, warm, dark environment. Is your heart, is this church, a comfortable place for sin?
This is why it is so important to regularly read God’s word with a heart ready for discomfort. Its examples and teachings and songs make our lives visible. When Christ makes our sinful shortcomings visible, let’s not grab fig leaves and cover it up in our minds. If we need to talk to close companions for help, let’s do that. We don’t want guilt, but if we ignore the light now, we will end up with no inheritance and ashamed eternally. Notice a fifth way in verses 15-16.
5) Make the Best Use of the Time (5:15-16)
Money is often a person’s most valued resource, but a far more valuable resource we often forget about is time. In each day we all have the same amount of this resource. We don’t have to work for it - time is a gift from God. Time is probably the most precious resource everyone has. Paul instructs us here to be careful and wise, “making the best use of the time because the days are evil.” Would we say that we always make the best use of our time? Honestly, I’d love to let time just happen - do what feels right in each moment. But Paul says “the days are evil.” Unless we seek to make the best use of our time, the evil days we live in will pilot us to using our time to pursue sinful desires. I have found this to be very true in my life. We can see this in the world - crime rates go up on school holidays. If we passively let life happen, not only will we often fail to be useful with our time, we will often make foolish, sinful decisions it.
Making the best use of our time means we need to watch out for laziness. I’m not sure that frequent Netflix binge periods are the best use of our time. But making the best use of our time also means we need to watch out for incessant busyness. Busyness is the new way to appear righteous. We feel good about ourselves if we are very busy. Let’s remember the parable of the sower - the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches prevent us from bearing fruit. Incessant busyness can actually prevent us from bearing real fruit. If we are not bearing fruit and instead repeatedly returning to foolish, sinful decisions, ask if how we spend our time is the problem. If it is, let’s take Paul’s admonition for ourselves. Let’s be more intentional with our time. If we are normally tempted to sin on Friday and Saturday nights, let’s decide today how to make better use of that time. Give that time to God and his people. If we are so busy that we are neglecting the assembly or do not have time to for God’s word or for serving his people, let’s decide today to make better use of your time. I doubt God would agree that Sundays are the best time for second jobs and catching up on sleep. Let’s prioritize the assembly, God’s word and prayer, and serving the weak. If we are too tired for that, let’s cut some things out of our schedules and get sleep so we can make better use of our time.
6) Do Not Get Drunk, But Be Filled with the Spirit (5:18-21)
If our minds keep going back to thinking of ways to get more money and stuff, greed is living in us. If our minds keep returning to thinking of how to enjoy more illicit sexual pleasure, lust is living in us. And if our minds keep going back to how we need and want more alcohol, foolishness is living in us. These vices are addicting and they control us. God’s desire is for his Spirit live in, control, and put God’s identifying seal on us. Are you addicted to and drunk on alcohol, lust, or greed? There is a way out of darkness. Be filled with God’s Spirit.
How? Fill your heart and your life with the things of the Spirit: teach God’s people through song, sing and make melody in your heart to God, give thanks for everything, and submit your life to be used for the service of your brothers and sisters in Christ. I recognize that addictions are mental and chemical. But when we are filled with song, thanksgiving, and service to our brothers and sisters, God’s Spirit living through us leaves less room for other desires. It is harder to be dissatisfied with our possessions and become greedy when we are giving thanks for everything. It is harder to be dissatisfied with our spouse or to crave the comfort of alcohol when we are praising God for the hope and life he gives us.
Fill your life with God’s Spirit. Fill your heart with songs that teach you and songs that express your praise to God. When you are getting ready in the morning, when you are in the car, when you are discouraged and cravings for sin are screaming in your soul, make music in your heart to God, give thanks to him, and plan how to serve and submit yourself to others.
Christians are always wanting to know how God expects them to be able to resist the temptations of Satan and stay on the right path. Many wise people have written a lot of literature to help us kick habits of darkness. Let’s put the Spirit’s admonitions through Paul at the top of the list. God’s “how to’s” are the best - let’s use them.