Walk in the Light
Kids are dismissed for Childrens Church.
The rest of you, please open your Bibles with me to Ephesians chapter 5.
Now, overall, through this letter that Paul has written to the church in Ephesus, Paul’s big picture theme has been unity within the church, unity within the body of Christ. He has been telling them what unity looks like, what it means and what it takes.
Paul’s early focus was that we are all one people of God, none better than the other. We all received salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christa alone, not through anything we did, but all because of the glory of God. Since we didn’t earn it, we can’t look down on others around us, but we all come together look at and recognizing God and the glory of his immeasurable riches. One body, One people, One Church.
More recently, Paul has been focusing on some of the more practical aspects of our unity, namely that sin and disobedience to God breaks unity within the church and causes division every time and on every level.
And so, Paul has been dealing with our sins. He says, take off the old and put on the new. You have been changed and it is through the power of Christ and the Work of the Holy Spirit you have been changed. So, stop doing wrong, stop sinning against God and each other. Turn your eyes and heart to Jesus and let him guide your actions and thoughts.
So, with that we will go ahead and read this morning’s passage, Ephesians chapter 5, verses 1 through 10. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please grab your preferred translation and follow along reading for yourself.
Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writing the inerrant Word of God, writes:
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.
Thus says the Word of God.
Therefore. Again, because of what I just said then this. Paul’s last comment, the last verse we have in chapter 4, he says, be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
So, because of that, because you are to respond to Christ forgiving you by forgiving others, therefore, be imitators of God. He forgave you. Imitate him by forgiving others and each other.
Imitate God, as his beloved children. Imitate him as our children naturally try to imitate their parents. A friend of mine recently preached through Ephesians 4 and the section we look at last week, and one of his points was that we are to “Take off childish clothes, put on Christ! We’ll end up looking like a little boy wearing Dad’s clothes, but we should be growing into those clothes.”
We are children of God, and we are to grow up in the likeness of Him, to be like him, to be conformed to the image of his Son, Jesus Christ. To do that, we are to imitate him. Imitating God means imitating Jesus.
And so, we are to walk in love. Just as Christ loved us. And he gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice.
Now, again, the order of what God is telling us matters. The order that we think about this matters. The order in which we have our faith and trust absolutely matters.
Do this, walk in love, forgive others, be imitators of God because of Christs love for us, his forgiveness, the redemption he has given us.
Not Do this, walk in love, forgive others, be imitators of God in order to earn or to prove our goodness, or to earn favor or to tip the eternal scales. We do it because of him, not to get him or because of ourselves.
Imitating God and walking in love is not all worldly benefits. It takes sacrifice and the giving over of oneself and life to God. There will be hard times and suffering. Jesus had to go through to worst of tough times and had to go through suffering that we will never be able to imagine, taking on himself the wrath of God on our behalf. That act of love was a fragrant offering to God the Father.
This is of course, not saying that we have to die on the cross, that we have to shed our blood to atone for others, but it is saying that it is that commitment, that dedication which is a fruit of a life committed to imitating God in our walk.
Paul then mentions a few specific sins that need to be avoided. Sexual immorality, all impurity, covetousness. All of them must be so completely avoided. These three all fit together, covetousness meaning to be greedy for your passions and lust to be satisfied, greedy for someone else’s body.
These sins can be so detrimental to the individual and to the church body as a whole that they must not even be named among you.
Proverbs 4: 14-15 keeps it simple:
Do not enter the path of the wicked,
and do not walk in the way of the evil.
15 Avoid it; do not go on it;
turn away from it and pass on.
We don’t just trip and fall into big sin. It starts small. A little bit at a time, bit by bit, inch by inch, it starts with small compromises, talking about sins, laughing at it, normalizing it, and then partaking in it.
Paul says there is no room for it. No room for even a hint. Not even the smallest compromises. Once a drift, once a slide down that path, it is almost impossible stem that tide.
It is easy for the church, both corporately and as made up of individuals, it is easy for us to put up a moral out shell, that makes it look to others around as if everything is fine and that we are acting holy as we are supposed to. But inside that moral outer shell, sin sits there, just below the surface. Sometimes it can be a secret, unknown sin that we don’t think anyone else knows or can find out about. Sometimes it is known but not talked about, ignored and buried, with those around us trying to wish sin away.
The thing is the world sees it. People outside the church see through that shell and see the sins that we don’t want to admit or acknowledge. They see the hypocrisy and it turns them off.
In verse 4, Paul says to let no filthiness or foul talk, or crude joking come out of our mouths. This is out of place in the church. It allows sin to grab a foothold. As I said earlier, it is the beginning of normalizing and accepting sin as ok. It doesn’t mean that it’s out of place simply in the church building, that’s it’s not ok on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings but it’s ok at work during the week or out on Saturday evening. It is out of place in the church, in you and me, it is out of place in our lives, in our minds and in our hearts.
This doesn’t mean there won’t be a struggle. Sin is that addiction that we keep around because we remember it tasting so good. The addiction we keep around, just in case. And this is all the more reason why we need to starve it, so it doesn’t stick around and grow stronger.
We starve it out of ourselves. We starve it out of the church. We starve it, not even naming it, striving to be holy as God is Holy, to be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect.
We need to remember who we are. That we are Gods Holy People. We are saints, we are separated and set apart. We are Gods children. We are the church, the bride of Christ and as such, these things are out of place among us.
Paul says, instead of the crude, filthy, foolish talk, instead of these actions which are idolatry, instead of these sins of the heart and the mind, leading to the sins of the body, let there be praises and thanksgiving to God.
We are to live focused on the good that God is, and he has done. Remembering the immeasurable riches of his grace. Basking in the glory of his forgiveness. Walking in love as Christ loved us. We are to replace the worship of idols, (in this case sex, greed, lust, etc.) with worship of the one true living and eternal God.
And we come to verses 5 & 6.
As we do, let me give a list of facts that the Bible is very clear about.
Fact: Sinners have no inheritance of the Kingdom of God.
Fact: The unrighteous cannot and will not enter the kingdom of God.
Fact: We are all sinners, there are none righteous.
And so, with all of that,
Question: How do we gain eternal life? How do we enter into the Kingdom that we have no natural, human right or ability to enter.
The Bible answers this as well:
There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
In Christ, we are no longer sinners, but our identity is now that of saints.
In Christ, He is our righteousness.
And it is not that we are made righteous, but we are declared righteous in the eyes of God, In Christ. Through the blood of Christ.
In Christ, we are clothed in Christs righteousness.
And so, the answer to the Question, how do we enter into the Kingdom that we have no natural, human right or ability to enter?
The answer is nothing, but the grace of God poured out on us, the vehicles of which is the gift of faith that he has given us, faith in the perfect and finished work of God the Son, Jesus Christ.
When we are deemed and declared righteous in Gods eyes, we are justified. That is done in an instant. But as Paul shows us in Romans 8, God does not justify one whom he does not also sanctify which is a lifelong process and whom he does not also glorify, which is the instant we enter into Heaven and are transformed into our perfect and eternal heavenly bodies, free from sin.
But we are not yet sanctified. We are promised it, but we are not yet glorified. Our bodies are not yet free from sin.
And so, Paul is talking about who we were. The Sexually immoral. The covetous. The idolaters. The greedy. That’s who we were. But in Christ, that’s no longer who we are.
Now, not everyone is in Christ. Paul says do not be deceived with empty words by those who are not in Christ, by those who are sons of disobedience.
Those who are not in Christ, often the so called, “good people,” Sometimes “truth seekers.” The tolerant and open minded. Those who seek to appease the groups of the world instead of appeasing God.
They are full of empty words and platitudes. They say things that sound really nice and loving on the surface. Love is love. Deceptive and disobedient words. Or empty words that puff up and flatter those who are disobedient to God and say things like they are against bad things and for good things, but with no source of what is good or what is bad other than the worlds definition.
One source I was reading however, describes the most dangerous empty words that are spoken as those that “Professing Christians can lead unrepentant, sinful lives after conversion to Christ and not suffer the consequences.”
A constant and unrepentant lifestyle of sin means that there is rotten fruit growing on the tree. And rotten fruit gets pruned. It receives judgment in the form of the wrath of God. The sons of Disobedience are full of empty words and unrepentant sin, and they will receive the wrath of God and they will have no inheritance of the Kingdom of God.
Verse 7, Paul is telling us, reminding us, exhorting us, do not be partners with them. Do not partner with those who are doing these things and remember light has no partnership with darkness.
Now, this does not mean not to spend time with or associate with or to love, be friends with hang out with anybody outside the church or outside the faith. But we are not to join people who are sinning. We are not to stay when they are engaging in unbiblical or unchristian behaviors.
In chapter 4, Paul just got finished telling us to no longer walk as the gentiles do. And to put away falsehoods. And now, do not become partners with the dark.
That was you. That was me. That was us. At one time we were in darkness. But now, now you are the light. You are forgiven. You are redeemed. You are justified. Now, you are being sanctified.
Now that you are light, walk in the light. Put off the old and put on the new. Not only stop doing what is wrong and start doing what’s right but show the difference between what is light and what is dark. Show your friends, your family, your community.
Show them the way that you believe, this way that you believe, it is not right. It is out of place in the church.
Any man-made view, thought, metric, behavior, action, whatever. Anything that is not rooted and grounded in the right understanding and exposition of the Word of God alone has no place in the church.
There was a big, nationally known pastor who said recently, “Jesus drew circles, not lines.”
Now, to be sure, there is a sense in which this is true. All are welcome and invited to be here, to be treated with dignity and respect, and to hear the Gospel and repent of their sins. And so, there is a way in which we draw circles.
However, at some point, lines have to be drawn. The Gospel draws lines. Salvation draws lines. The unfortunate reality is that there is no biblical basis for what is called universalism. I wish it were so, but scripture is clear that not everyone goes to heaven.
I’m sure I’ve said this here before, but Christianity is, at the same time, both he most inclusive and the most exclusive religion in the world. It is inclusive in that every single person, with no exceptions is invited to believe the Gospel and rent of their sins and become a child of God. It is exclusive in that the way that all of those who are invited can gain entrance is through the door that is Jesus Christ and him alone.
Within the church, as Gods Holy People, we are called to be unified, united, one people of God. And we are called, as Paul says in verse 10, that we are to try and discern what is pleasing to the LORD.
The Bible already tells us some of the answers.
What is pleasing to God is to follow his commands, to trust and obey, to be light, to put off the old and put on the new, to resist sin and to do what is good and right and true. Most of all to repent and believe the Gospel, the true and finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
Anything else is to be held to the standard that scripture itself sets. If it does not meet that standard the church must reject it outright and with extreme prejudice.
I’m going to close today with a story from about 500 years ago. A story from this church’s long-ago heritage, coming out of the Reformation and the Lutheran tradition.
Martin Luther stood against the Catholic Church in the early 1500s and against there unbiblical doctrines and practices, the most offensive to him, was the practice of indulgences, essentially being able to buy time off of purgatory and buy relatives way into heaven. Buying forgiveness.
And so, there was a long-drawn-out deal between Luther and the church, and they called him to address these issues, and this took place at an assembly called the Diet of Worms. He was told to recant of his objections and his accusations, and his response was a wonderful speech and rebuttal, but he ended with the following:
Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason-for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves-I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one’s conscience is neither safe nor sound. “Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me. Amen.
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
1 John 1:5-7